• ‘Retain graphic warnings in cigarette packs’

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    An anti-smoking group has urged lawmakers not to legislate smaller graphic health warnings (GHW) in cigarette packs.

    New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) president, Engr. Emer Rojas, asked lawmakers to reject the tobacco manufacturers’ proposal to reduce the picture warnings to below sixty percent or less than half the size of cigarette packs.

    “Our legislators, must protect and promote the fundamental rights to health and life and to reject the tobacco industry’s unreasonable proposals for small warnings placed at the bottom of cigarette packs—to be administered by the tobacco industry itself,” said Rojas.

    He said health advocates would never allow such a reduction of the GHW.

    “Picture-based health warnings should cover as much of the principal display areas as possible, or at least sixty percent of the top of cigarette packs,” Rojas, the Global Cancer Ambassador to the Philippines, said.

    He said their position was similar to the guidance of the World Health Organization, which said that more countries now require GPW to cover at least sixty percent of the size of cigarette packs.

    The NVAP head also said the Philippines was expected to implement the provisions of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), being one of its signatories.

    Rojas also said the proposed law should not exclude the Department of Health (DOH) as an implementing agency because the GHW is a health measure and the DOH’s primary task is to protect the health of all Filipinos.

    “So I’m here to please call on our legislators to ensure that the DOH [remains]the implementing agency to implement the picture-based health warnings. This is to ensure the welfare of the people, protect Filipinos,” he said.

    “The tobacco industry should be strictly prohibited from intervening in this health measure and setting the parameters of their regulation. It is unethical, unacceptable and against global best practices for the tobacco industry to regulate itself,” Rojas added.

    During a press conference on Monday, a Social Weather Stations survey revealed that majority (63 percent) of the respondents agreed that banning the sale of cigarettes per stick would help decrease the number of people who smoke. Most of the respondents (55 percent) also said the increase in cigarette prices in 2013 helped decrease the number of people who smoke. Maris Lalog

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