Cigarette firms OK graphic warning bill—Pia Cayetano
MANILA, Philippines—Cigarette manufacturers have “in principle” indicated their support for the graphic warning bill, which seeks to require tobacco firms to print on cigarette packs images of diseases and organ disfiguration, Sen. Pia Cayetano said on Thursday.
With the support of the bill’s erstwhile opponents, the chair of the Senate committee on health and demography is confident that the measure, meant to discourage smoking among Filipinos, will finally pass in the present Congress.
“I am pleased and surprised because I’ve conducted this same hearing six years ago, and back then, the cigarette companies were really opposed to this,” Cayetano said in a statement.
“But [on Wednesday], they expressed support and acknowledged the bill as a measure that would benefit the public. I would like to assume goodwill on the part of the four cigarette companies when they say that they support this, and I hope I won’t have to take back everything I said today in the future,” she added.
Cayetano made the remarks a day after the committee took up in a hearing Senate Bill Nos. 27 and 499 that he and Senate President Franklin Drilon authored, respectively.
Both measures seek to require cigarette packs in the country “to bear graphic health warnings showing the health risks of smoking and secondhand smoke to discourage Filipinos, especially the youth, from taking up the habit.”
Among the industry representatives that spoke at the hearing were Raul Academia, director for trade, fiscal and regulatory affairs of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp.; Augusto San Pedro, legal counsel of Japan Tobacco International; James Lafferty, general manager of British American Tobacco Philippines; and Antonio Ocampo, general manager of Mighty Corp.
Cayetano said the industry leaders in principle expressed support for the measure but also proposed changes to the measure.
“The concerns they raised dealt with details, such as the size of the graphic health warning on the cigarette packs, which is understandable. I feel we could work this out with the other side, the health advocates who want a bigger graphic health warning. I hope that we can resolve this and have a law,” she said.
Cayetano said issues raised on several provisions, such as the proposed size of the graphic health warning that should take up 60 percent of both the front and back panels, the compliance period for the release of the new packs, and the requirement to print several variations of the graphic health warning and to rotate these periodically.
Other concerns from the industry were the provisions on allowable minimum packaging size, and the requirement to remove descriptors from cigarette labels, among others.
Cayetano expressed openness to consider the amendments that the industry proposed.
“They gave us their position papers which we will incorporate. I will present to them a new version which already includes their comments which I feel are reasonable,” Cayetano said.
She said the graphic warning bill reached the plenary in the 14th and 15th Congresses but the versions didn’t get beyond second reading.—Norman Bordadora
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