To further deter smoking after the imposition of higher “sin” taxes on tobacco products, the House committee on health approved a bill mandating local manufacturers and importers to place graphic warnings about the dangers of the vice on cigarette packs.
The measure does not stop with the warnings. After 12 months of the graphic health warnings roll out, the bill will prohibit cigarette manufacturers from putting information on cigarette packs that would undermine, if not obscure the hazards of smoking such as: low tar, light, ultra light, mild, extra, ultra, or any other similar terms.
The still unnumbered substitute bill on the Graphic Health Warning law was authored by Reps. Ibarra Gutierrez and Walden Bello of Akbayan party-list, Marcelino Teodoro of Marikina, Niel Tupas, Jr. of Iloilo province and Leah Paquiz of Ang Nars party-list, among others.
The measure stipulates that the graphic and its accompanying textual warning should occupy 40 percent of the cigarette pack.
“We welcome the passage of this landmark bill which we hope will lead to greater awareness of the hazards of tobacco use and reduce the incidence of cigarette smoking in the country, especially among the Filipino youth,” Gutierrez said.
In addition, the bill stresses that the graphic health warning should not be printed in an area where it may be obliterated, obstructed, folded, severed or become unreadable when the tobacco product package is opened or closed or when a wrapper on the package is removed.
It further requires the creation of eight versions of each set of graphic and textual health warnings that will be rotated periodically or printed simultaneously and separately for each stockkeeping unit so that each variation will appear in approximately equal frequency over the yearly volume.
“While the approved version did not incorporate all the features we originally pushed for, this is still a firm step in the right direction,” Gutierrez added.
In addition to the graphic health warning, one panel of all tobacco product packages provided to consumers will contain the following statement in a clear, legible and conspicuous manner: NO SALE TO MINORS or NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS.
Any manufacturer or importer found guilty of violating this measure will be fined 100,000 for first offense, P500,000 on second offense and P1 million, one-year imprisonment and revocation of permits and licenses to operate on the third offense.
The same degree of penalties will apply to any distributor, wholesaler or retailer who will be found violating the Graphic Health Warning law.