Vendors may sell by cigarettes but must carry graphic health warning
MANILA, Philippines—Vendors could still hawk cigarettes by stick if they came with packaging bearing health warnings, Sen. Pia Cayetano said.
Cayetano said the Graphic Health Warning bill would not prohibit the sale of cigarettes by stick in “sari-sari” stores, and by street vendors.
Cayetano, sponsor and author of the bill, agreed with Sen. Francis Escudero’s observation that the sale by stick has contributed to the proliferation of smoking among the youth.
“It has been my position that for this to be truly a health measure, we should stop selling by the stick, (but) I believe that the manufacturers will question this as interference with their commercial discretion on how they sell,’’ she said in a statement.
The cigarettes, however, should be pulled out of packaging with the graphic health warning, Cayetano said.
“They cannot take it out and put it in a separate container. It still must be in this kind of packaging. And if they hand one (stick), then they can hand one. I do not like it that way, but until we disallow the sales by ‘tingi-tingi,’ then it has to be in that packaging on display in the hand of the ‘takatak boy’ (vendor),’’ she said.
Senate Bill No. 27, which would require locally sold cigarette packs to bear highly visible, full-color picture-based health warnings on the hazards of smoking, remained in the period of interpellation, as of Wednesday (Mar. 19).
The warning takes up 60 percent of both the front and back panels.
Cayetano also said she would be open to amendments that would adjust the period of compliance for manufacturers to place the health warnings in the packaging.
Section 5 of the bill sets a transition period of 90 days to include picture-based health warnings in locally sold cigarette packs. Section 10, on the other hand, mandates a compliance period of 120 days for the removal of non-compliant cigarette packs from all displays.
“I will be very candid about it. This [provision on the period of compliance] is not carved in stone. We are happy to receive the amendments at the proper time, but we just want to be sure that these are reasonable,’’ Cayetano said.
Cayetano recalled that when she first sponsored the measure in the 14th Congress seven years ago, manufacturers were “unreasonable’’ with their recommendations.
“But now, all four companies present (during the committee hearing, namely, Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation Inc., Japan Tobacco International, British American Tobacco Philippines and, Mighty Corporation Inc.) expressed support for the measure and simply asked that the specific period be looked into so that it is more reasonable,’’ she said.
Cayetano said proposals from the manufacturers would be considered in determining a reasonable transition period.
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