Graphic warnings on Philippine cigarette packets will not appear for almost two years despite the law technically coming into force on Thursday, with health officials blaming pressure from a powerful tobacco lobby.
“We wanted only a six-month [transition]period. But that is what the legislators said. There is nothing we can do,” the leader of the department’s tobacco control office, Marilisa Calvadores, told Agence France-Presse.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd signed the bill into law in July after political wrangling by a government that discourages smoking even as it encourages a politically powerful tobacco-growing industry.
The warnings will not appear on cigarette packs until about May 2016, Calvadores said.
“The rationale was to give cigarette manufacturers a chance to use up the supplies that are already in the market,” she added.
Emer Rojas, head of the New Vois Association, an anti-smoking group, said a powerful bloc of legislators from tobacco-growing regions had successfully watered
down the law.
“This [law]was a compromise but it is far better than nothing. It is in the right direction but there are features we don’t like,” he added.
The law mandates that the graphic warnings, showing the harmful effects of smoking, should cover the bottom half of the cigarette pack.
Rojas described the provision giving cigarette companies 20 months to put out the warnings and exhaust their stocks of unmarked packs as “delaying tactics.”
Officials of the country’s tobacco industry association could not be contacted for comment.