DOH calls for plain packaging on tobacco products

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The Department of Health (DOH) said that it does not see the need to increase the space allocated for the Graphic Health Warnings (GHWs) on tobacco products, which currently occupies 50 percent of the cigarette packs.

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In a press briefing held in connection with the start of the full implementation of the GHW Law on tobacco products last Friday, DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial said they do not see the need to increase the space for GHWs or picture warnings in cigarette packs, unlike other countries where the warnings are mandated to cover up to 90 percent of the packaging.

“I think the option right now for the DOH is to move towards plain packaging, rather than increasing the size of GHWs,” Secretary Ubial said.

She added that recent studies from other countries revealed that having plain packaging could be more effective in discouraging cigarette smoking.

“It is actually more effective than increasing the GHW,” the Health official stressed.

By “plain packaging,” cigarette packs will just be plain in color and will not have attractive designs of logos of the brand images or any promotional information on packaging.

The brand names and product names, meanwhile, shall be displayed but in a standard color and font style coupled with graphic health warnings.

Republic Act 10643 or the Graphic Health Warnings Law mandates the printing of GHWs on 50 percent of the packaging of any tobacco products in the country.

In last week’s press briefing, the DOH, together with other government agencies and civil society organizations (CSOs), called for the people’s full participation in the implementation of the GHW Law.

“We enjoin everyone to be vigilant and make sure that all tobacco products carry these pictorial warnings and that violators be reported to the respective government agencies,” Secretary Ubial said.

She noted that the health system’s success will actually depend also on the public’s active involvement as she emphasized that health is everyone’s concern.

“Through these warnings, we want to inform everyone that smoking puts to waste human potentials,” the Health chief said.

The GHW on the cigarette packages aims to show the ill- effects of smoking to users and at the same discourage the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products among the young people.

“We already gained so much from our serious efforts to control tobacco use in the country. With the Sin Tax and the GHW laws, we believe that many Filipinos will hesitate if not stop smoking altogether,” she said.

The 16.5 million smoking population in the Philippines are made up of 42 percent of adult males and six percent of adult females.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Bulletin, “taken as a whole, pictorial warnings are more likely to be noticed than text-only warning labels; more effective for educating smokers about the health risks of smoking and for increasing smokers’ thoughts about the health risks; and associated with increased motivation to quit smoking.”

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