Tobacco foes mark ‘victory for health’
Antismoking advocates are celebrating a recent court decision that would give the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) more regulatory control and supervision over tobacco products in the country.
“Finally, a victory for health,” said Ipat Luna of HealthJustice Philippines, a group of lawyers advocating for tobacco control.
Luna was referring to the case filed by the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) early this year seeking to stop the DOH and FDA from enforcing the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009.
But the Las Piñas City court hearing the case has denied PTI’s petition for “lack of merit.”
“We eagerly await the actions of the DOH and FDA on some violations of the tobacco industry, including the sale of cigarettes in packs without picture warnings,” Luna said.
The PTI petition had questioned the authority and jurisdiction of the FDA to regulate tobacco products. It stressed that the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IACT) had exclusive authority to implement Republic Act No. 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.
In its response, the two government agencies maintained that tobacco control was part of their mandates because cigarette use impacted on health.
Among the Philippines’ 94 million population, an estimated 17.3 million are smokers, many of them teenagers and young adults. Smoking has been shown to be a major risk factor in heart disease, lung ailments and cancer.
“Imagine how detrimental it would have been for Filipinos if the petition of the tobacco industry was granted,” said Emer Rojas, UN global cancer ambassador and president of New Vois Association of the Philippines, an antismoking group composed mainly of cancer victims.
Rojas continued, “The industry wants a government committee on which it sits as a member to regulate tobacco products—this is not only ironic, but worse, puts the whole nation’s health at risk.”
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), whose own antismoking initiative is being questioned in court, also lauded the ruling that favored the DOH and the FDA.
“This is indeed a victory for the country. It’s high time public welfare was prioritized over the profit of an industry that ultimately kills its consumers,” said MMDA general manager Cora Jimenez.
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