Congress OKs 50% graphic warnings on cigarette packs

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 10 2014 07:41 PM | Updated as of Jun 11 2014 07:28 AM

MANILA - The Senate and the House of Representatives were able to reconcile their versions of the bill that will put graphic health warnings on tobacco products following a bicameral conference.

Senator Pia Cayetano said the reconciled version was able to retain the proposal that 50 percent of cigarette packaging be devoted to the graphic warning although it will be placed in the packaging’s lower portion.

But 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.

Another salient point in the bicam version, Cayetano said, is that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will join the Department of Health (DOH) as lead agencies in implementing the law.

Within 30 days after the law is implemented, the DOH shall come up with the templates for the graphic health warnings.

The tobacco industry has a year to comply to allow them to purchase machines needed to put the warnings on cigarette packages.

Manufacturers were also given an 8-month extension for them to exhaust their current stocks in the market before penalties are imposed.

“Because of the existing packaging na naiwan sa market na wala pang graphic warning, we have agreed to give them an eight-month period of exhaustion. The Senate came from a one-year version without further exhaustion. But in the interest of moving forward, we had to agree to an additional 8-month para maubos ang stock sa market. That simply means that wala pang penalties. But within one year, makakakita na po kayo ng graphic health warning sa lahat ng cigarette packs natin,” Cayetano said.

“I am still proud that after seven years, mapapasabatas na ito. And I expect that all government agencies of the country that are now part of the crafting of the [implementing rules and regulations] will fully participate to ensure na ‘yung mandate natin sa batas na ito ay malaman ng mga Pilipino ang kasamaan, ang maidudulot na sakit sa kanila ng paninigarilyo,” she said.