Cigarette graphic warning bill bitter-sweet - health advocates

Posted at 06/11/2014 10:49 PM

MANILA - Health advocates lauded the passage of the cigarette graphic warning bill, but noted that several of its provisions were sacrificed.

Health Justice Philippines trustee Ipat Luna said the move of the lawmakers to require 50% of the packaging devoted to graphic warnings is still “positive news.”

“There were concessions that sacrificed public health for profit, despite the vigorous defense of Senator Pia Cayetano and Representatives Leah Paquiz of Ang NARS and Barry Gutierrez of Akbayan. But we will keep working to keep the tobacco industry’s dirty hands off our public health policies,” she said.

Several youth leaders earlier started a petition on Change.org urging lawmakers to “keep the graphic health warning law free of tobacco industry control.”

They backed Cayetano’s version of the bill and lauded her for resisting Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile’s proposal to appoint a body with tobacco industry representatives as the implementing agency for the law.

Einstein Rojas, the son of Global Cancer Ambassador Emer Rojas, said prominent graphics would help discourage the youth from smoking.

He and his sister, Aika, grew up seeing their father suffering from cancer due to smoking. The older Rojas now speaks via a voice-box machine.

“I had no idea it was bad,” he said. “Ang alam ko lang, sundin ang inyong mga magulang. (What I knew was, we should follow our parents’ example)”

Both chambers of Congress were able to reconcile their versions of the bill on Tuesday.

The legislators agreed that the warning should not be obscured and that it should still be placed on the front and back panels of the packaging and printed in English and Filipino.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Health (DOH) will be the lead agencies in implementing the law.