Press Release
March 3, 2014

Drilon, P. Cayetano urge colleagues to pass graphic health
warnings on cigarette packs

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon along with Senator Pia S. Cayetano introduced a measure on Monday which requires tobacco companies to display graphic labels on their products depicting the full health consequences of smoking, the latest of legislative efforts aimed at reducing the smoking incidence rates in the country.

"The bill is necessary in order to strengthen the government's efforts to discourage smoking among our citizenry. Smokers have to be informed and made fully aware of what will happen to their health every time they pick up a cigarette pack," Drilon explained.

In his sponsorship speech, Drilon said the proposed picture-based health warning law seeks to increase the awareness of the public especially among the youth on the harmful and deadly effects of smoking.

He stressed that the measure's passage is "of vital importance in the health situation of the country," saying that the country has to badly address the unabated rise of cigarette smokers amongst Filipinos. "The Philippines still registers as having one of the highest smoking incidences in the Western Pacific Region, even with measures like the Sin Tax Bill in effect. A much more decisive government action on this issue is then evidently required," he said.

Based on the estimates done by the Department of Health, 87,600 Filipino die annually, or about ten Filipino deaths for every hour, due to smoking-related complications. Also, cigarette smoking costs an estimated P188 billion in annual health care expenses and productivity losses.

Cayetano, in her co-sponsorship speech, urged for a more decisive government action on smoking, in order to help stem large-scale human death smoking causes: "More than 5 million people die each year from direct tobacco use, while more than 600,000 people die from second hand smoke. With current smoking patterns, around 500 million people die will eventually die from tobacco use."

Drilon then pointed to the main objective of the bill: "the passage of this proposed measure will bring closer to our goal of protecting the present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke."

Under the bill, tobacco products have to display picture-based health warnings in full colour with accompanying text warnings that will be printed on at least 60 percent of the principal display surfaces for any tobacco package. The warnings will show the dangers of tobacco smoking or passive smoking, following guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health.

Drilon reasoned that graphic-based warnings on tobacco use are more effective than text-based warnings in educating the public about tobacco-induced health complications: "When we look at other countries where this system has been set in place, they were able to reduce the incidence of smoking in their respective jurisdictions."

Cayetano, for her part, stressed: "while many tobacco users know tobacco is harmful, studies show that most people are unaware of its true risk. Studies have also shown that picture-based warnings are much more effective than text warnings alone."

Both senators have been active in government campaigns against smoking and related health issues. Cayetano had authored and sponsored two earlier versions on graphic health warnings in the previous 14th and 15th Congress. Meanwhile, the Senate President has been active in furthering anti-smoking policies in the country, foremost among which is the passage of the Sin Tax Reform Act in 2012.

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