Press Release
October 9, 2012

Drilon urges passage of bill on picture-based tobacco warning labels

Alarmed over the increasing number of Filipinos who died from smoking-related diseases, Senator Franklin M. Drilon pushed for the immediate passage of a bill requiring tobacco companies to show picture-based health warnings on cigarette packages.

"The Department of Health places the costs associated to cigarette smoking at 87,600 Filipino deaths annually or about ten Filipino deaths for every hour. Also, cigarette smoking costs an estimated P218 to P416 billion in annual health care expenses and productivity losses," stressed Drilon.

Citing various studies including the 2009 Philippine Global Adult Tobacco Survey, Drilon emphasized that more than 17 million of the population aged 15 years and above currently smoke, on the average, 10.7 sticks of cigarettes a day.

He added that Philippines registers one of the highest smoking incidence in the Western Pacific Region and was reported to have the lowest prices of cigarettes in the ASEAN region, except for Laos and Cambodia.

Given the alarming statistics, the Senate Finance Committee chairman said there is a need to increase the awareness of the cigarette consumers on the harmful effects of smoking, noting that about 4 billion packs of cigarettes are being produced in the country every year.

He thus urged his colleagues in the Senate to pass the Senate Bill 3283, "Act to Effectively Instill Health Consciousness through Picture-Based Warnings o Tobacco Products," also known as "Picture -Based Warning Law" filed by Senator Pia Cayetano

Citing different studies, Drilon said that strategically placing meaningful graphic images along with text warnings to cigarette cartons and other tobacco products have effectively deterred smoking in other countries which already have this system in place.

He notes, for instance, a study by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, showed that from 2008 to 2010, more than 25 percent of people in the 14 countries surveyed were affected by warning labels, while the use of prominent pictorial warnings was considered to be the most effective medium in communicating the health hazards associated with smoking.

"Other studies have shown that the use of graphic images on packets have a significantly wider reach than mere text warnings, as images produce effects not just on the smoker, but on the people around him," explained Drilon, "it has also been apparent that these images have a significant effect on those who have difficulty in reading and writing."

Drilon also noted that this picture-based warning is already being done by tobacco companies in the Philippines; except that it is not distributed locally, it is exported.

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