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CA allows cigarette firms to advertise, but not in media

/ 08:07 PM September 03, 2012

MANILA, Philippines–The Court of Appeals has allowed tobacco firms to advertise in certain areas, dealing a heavy blow to anti-tobacco campaigners who are pushing Congress to legislate more stringent regulations against the promotion and advertising of cigarettes.

In its August 26 decision, the appellate ruled in favor of Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc. which argued that tobacco ads should not be totally banned in the country, citing provisions of Republic Act 9211. The court permitted tobacco companies to promote their products at their points of sale. But the ads should not target minors, the court added.

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However, the ban on media advertising stays.

“Until such time when there is already a new law totally eliminating all forms of tobacco use and tobacco-related activities, this court has no other recourse but to act only in accordance with the prevailing R.A. No. 9211,” said the court decision.

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The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines on Monday lamented the decision of the appellate court to allow cigarette companies to hold promotional activities and display advertising materials at their points of sale around the country.

“It is a sad commentary on the current policies that we have not completely banned advertising, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products in our country. The Philippines ratified the WHO FCTC in 2005.  By 2010, the country should be completely compliant with provisions of that treaty,” said Dr. Maricar Limpin, FCAP’s executive director.

Limpin accused cigarette manufacturers of twisting provisions in RA 9211 with regards to “premises of point of sale establishments.”

“Tobacco companies have exploited the fact that Philippine law allows points of sale advertising.  In some instances, one will find entire sari-sari stores painted in the exact colors of the cigarette pack. Small billboards are placed outside of stores in complete violation of RA 9211.  The law also allows ads targeting adult smokers but we all know that cigarette posters are all over sari-sari stores where children could see,” said Limpin.

The CA decision came at an awkward moment. It has given the cigarette manufacturers an arsenal as health advocates, including the Department of Health, call for stricter controls on advertising and higher taxes on tobacco.

The Senate ways and means committee is currently deliberating on a new tax regime for tobacco and alcoholic products.

DOH data show that a 10 percent increase in tobacco taxes would reduce by 2 million the number of cigarette smokers by 2016. Raising the sin tax is also expected to reduce by 20 percent the number of yearly deaths due to smoking-related diseases.

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According to the 2011 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, more than 80 percent of Filipino children aged 13-15 have seen tobacco ads on billboards, a clear violation of RA 9211.

The Philippines has the highest number of smoking youth aged 13-15 in Southeast Asia with 28.3 percent of them boys and 17.5 percent girls.

The FCAP believes the recent CA ruling undermines the Philippines’ obligation to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which the Philippine Senate ratified in 2005.

Under the convention, the Philippine government pledged to follow Article 13 of the FCTC which states that it should implement a comprehensive ban on “all tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship” within five years after the ratification.

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