Senate ratifies Graphic Health Warning bill

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate ratified yesterday the Graphic Health Warning bill, which will mandate cigarette manufacturers to place vivid pictures of the ill-effects of smoking on cigarette packs.

Under the agreed version of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the graphic health warning shall be printed on 50 percent of the principal display surfaces of any tobacco package.

It shall occupy 50 percent of the front and 50 percent of the back panel of the packaging. The warnings shall be located at the lower portions of the panels.

Nothing shall be printed or applied on a location where it is likely to obscure or cover, in part or in whole, the graphic health warnings or the location where the internal revenue strip stamp is to be affixed as may be required by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

No part of the warning may be obliterated, obscured, folded, severed or become unreadable when the tobacco package is opened or closed or when a wrapper on the package is removed.

The picture-based warnings shall be printed or inscribed on the package in a color that contrasts conspicuously with the background of the package or its labels.

A maximum of 12 templates of graphic health warnings shall be printed simultaneously and these shall be rotated periodically for each brand family and also for each variant, so that every 24 months the variations of the warnings shall appear in the market with approximately equal frequency.

The senators and congressmen also reached a consensus that directs manufacturers to put text warnings on areas of the photograph where it will not obscure the picture itself but will be prominently displayed.

During the bicameral conference meeting on Tuesday at the Senate, Senators Pia Cayetano and Vicente Sotto III represented the Senate panel while Rep. Eufranio Eriguel led the House panel.

Among the contentious provisions discussed by the panel were the implementing agency and the exclusion of representatives from the tobacco industry in the crafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law.

“We were able to find a middle ground where the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Health (DOH) are the lead agencies for the crafting of the IRR, along with members of the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-T) except the tobacco firm representatives,” Sotto said.

Sotto added that anti-tobacco and civil society groups would also be tapped during the consultation process for the IRR.

The panel also reached a consensus to place the penalties for manufacturers who would violate the measure at a fine of not more than P500,000 for the first offense, not more than P1 million for the second offense, and a fine of not more than P2 million or imprisonment of not more than five years or both for the third offense.

The penalties drastically reduced the Senate’s initial proposal to place the fines from P1 million to P20 million, imprisonment of not more than five years for the 3rd offense and revocation of business permits and licenses.      

FDA invokes authority to lead implementation

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday invoked its authority to lead the implementation of the graphic health warning law over the IAC-T.

In a press briefing, FDA’s officer-in-charge for regulation field office Emil Polig said the agency could effectively implement the graphic health warning law because of the mandates given to the agency by Republic Act 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009.

He noted that the FDA has been “strengthened” by the law to exercise several functions, including the issuance of cease and desist orders, seizure orders and closure orders to erring establishments.

“The FDA can use its powers under RA 9711 to impose sanctions on violations of the GHW law,” Polig said.

“From the point of view of enforcement, our position is that the enforcement of this measure should be lodged with health agencies and that is the DOH and the FDA,” he added. – With Sheila Crisostomo











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