DOH to enforce Graphic Health Warnings Law
The Department of Health (DOH) on Friday vowed to strictly enforce the law on graphic health warnings on cigarette packages in a bid to help stop the illicit trade in tobacco products in the country.
Health Secretary Janette Garin made this statement as the country observes World No Tobacco Day on Sunday.
May 31 is designated as World No Tobacco Day, during which abstinence from all forms of tobacco consumption is encouraged.
“Let us not waste our gains in the fight against tobacco addiction. Together, let us prevent smoking-related diseases and save more lives,” said Garin.
She said the health department will focus its attention on implementing the Graphic Health Warnings Law.
The law, which was approved in July 2014, requires graphic photos bearing the ill effects of smoking on packs of tobacco products as a way of deterring people from starting the vice and encouraging smokers to kick the habit.
The DOH has issued in March the 12 templates of graphic photos that will appear on the cigarette packs for two years.
Tobacco manufacturers have been given a year to comply with the law while retailers were allotted eight months to ensure that all cigarette products bear the graphic warnings.
Garin believed that the graphic health warnings would reduce the appeal of cigarettes among potential Filipino smokers and encourage users to quit the bad habit.
“World No Tobacco Day is an ideal event to raise awareness on the hazards of tobacco use because approximately 240 Filipinos die daily from smoking-related diseases,” she said.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged member states to sign the “Protocol to Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products” to eventually eliminate a “sophisticated criminal activity.”
WHO director-general Margaret Chan said eliminating the illicit trade in tobacco would generate an annual tax windfall of $31 billion for governments, improve public health, help cut crime and stem an important revenue source for the tobacco industry.
“The protocol offers the world a unique legal instrument to counter and eventually eliminate a sophisticated criminal activity,” said Chan. “Fully implemented, it will replenish government revenues and allow more spending on health,” she said.
To make the protocol an international law, 40 signatories are required. So far, only eight countries have ratified it, according to the WHO.
The protocol is an international treaty negotiated by parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which has been ratified by 180 parties, including the Philippines.
The Sin Tax Coalition, composed of civil society organizations, medical professionals and health advocates who had supported the passage of the Sin Tax Reform Act, yesterday joined calls for the ratification of the protocol to effectively curb the tobacco epidemic.
Meanwhile, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) reminded government workers on the smoking ban in government offices as the country prepares to observe World No Tobacco Day.
In a statement, the agency said government employees are also not allowed to interact with the tobacco industry, except when needed for regulation purposes.
CSC Commissioner Robert Martinez said the agency places a premium on the health and wellness of civil servants in the belief that a person’s health directly correlates with productivity.
“While we respect that smoking remains to be a personal choice, we urge public servants to make the better choice, to choose the path toward a healthier lifestyle,” he said.
World No Tobacco Day is intended to draw attention to the widespread prevalence of tobacco use and its negative effects on health.
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