Senate passes graphic health warning bill
by Hannah Torregoza
June 10, 2014
The Senate has passed a landmark legislation requiring cigarette companies to put picture-based warnings on cigarette packs.
Senate Bill No. 27, or the Picture-Based Health Warning Act has been approved on third and final reading Monday evening and is expected to be approved in the bicameral conference committee before Congress goes into sine die adjournment on Wednesday, June 11.
Sen. Pilar “Pia” Cayetano, proponent and sponsor of the measure in the Senate, said the imposition of graphic health warnings at the front part of cigarette packages aims to prevent smokers from getting hooked on the vice as the warnings would show the dangers of tobacco or passive smoking.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, co-sponsor and co-author of the measure also said the bill would address the “estimated P188-billion in annual health care expenses and productivity losses that cigarette smoking is responsible for.”
Drilon said the text warning accompanying the picture would be worded in a layman’s term so ordinary citizens would easily understand.
Highlights of the bill include:
– A 90-day period for the Department of Health (DOH) to issue the set of templates of picture-based health warnings, as well as guidelines on printing instructions, specific pictures, design, or content of the information relating to the picture-based health warnings;
– A one-year transition period from the issuance of templates by the DOH for cigarette firms to include picture-based health warnings in their products;
– The picture-based health warnings shall occupy at least 50 percent of the principal display surfaces of any tobacco package, both at the front and back panels;
– The picture-based health warnings shall be located at the lower portions of the said panels. Provided, that in the event that the DOH determines that there are obstructions in the display, it can require the picture-based health warnings to be moved to the upper portions when the next set of templates is released;
– A maximum of 16 variations of picture-based health warnings shall be printed simultaneously and rotated periodically for each brand family and also for each variant, so that at any time within the 24-month period, the variations of the warnings shall appear in the market with approximately equal frequency and equal display of health warnings and messages on retail packages.
The measure mandates the DOH to be the lead government agency to issue guidelines and administrative sanctions to facilitate the implementation of the law and carry out the penalties for those who would violate the law.
I post this news because i am proud to be one of active advocates pushing for the passage of GHW on cigarette packs. We’ve started this campaign six years ago since I joined the organization where I belong and work now, the FCAP. Thank you for Sen. Pia Cayetano who has the political will to fight for this bill ever since. Hope this may discourage now the youth to start smoking as we all know that it is an addictive vise. At least, I was able to witness how the proceedings went on. There is always hope in our country.