Tobacco firms told to print pics of smoking illnesses


Posted at May 24 2010 10:17 PM | Updated as of May 25 2010 07:51 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Health (DoH) on Monday, has stepped up the pressure on tobacco companies, ordering them to start printing in 90 days, explicit warnings on cigarette packs that would illustrate the ill effects of smoking.

DoH Secretary Esperanza Cabral said tobacco companies should comply with Administrative Order 13 which the health department issued on May 12. The order was issued in line with the country's commitment to an international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) of which the Philippines is a signatory.

Cabral said the printing of graphic warnings on cigarette packs should have started in 2008, but this was opposed by tobacco firms, which until now, use only text in their "smoking warnings." in cigarette packs.

The DoH has come up with several designs that show the consequences of smoking, including cancer. Tobacco companies can choose which design they will print in their cigarette packs. The warnings are aimed at deterring smokers from continuing what is widely recognized as a hazardous vice.

Failure to comply with the DoH order will among others, mean closure of outlets where the products are distributed, including fines of about P5 million.

The government said previously that the cost of smoking-related diseases, estimated at P200 billion, is significantly higher than the yearly P30 billion in taxes raked in by the goverment from tobacco companies.

Tobacco companies are expected to lobby against the DoH order.  The Philippine Tobacco Institute is already opposing the directive, citing Reublic Act 9211 or 2003 which allows tobacco firms to just print text warnings.

The DoH said however, that the Senate ratified RA 9211 in 2005, in which it adopted the FCTC objectives.