Picture warning seen to expedite smoking reduction in PHL

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Saturday, May 31, 2014


WITH the Sin Tax law is proving to be effective, there remains the need to hasten the reduction of tobacco consumption in the country, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

Dr. Julie Hall, WHO Representative to the Philippines, said that one way to do so is by having legislators pass a law on graphic health warnings (GHW) in cigarette packs.

"We need the graphic health warnings to help convince people to stop smoking. We say pictures tell a thousand words. And they do… The pictures need to be out there," said Hall in an interview.

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"On a cigarette pack, you can only say a few words how dangerous cigarettes are. But with pictures, it can really tell you the real dangers of smoking," she further said referring to the present text only warnings in cigarette packs.

She noted how picture warnings will be helpful in letting the people know the real deal when it comes to cigarette smoking.

Hall said it will also be an effective tool to counter the massive marketing and promotional campaign of the tobacco industry.

"Right now, cigarette to young people look sexy. They are marketed like that with packs looking like that. And they think it’s a sexy, glamorous thing to do. The truth is cigarettes kill. And the picture showing amputated hand, lung damaged, large tumor on the side of the face. Putting them on packs, people will see what they really do… (they) will associate the nasty picture with the nasty product," said Hall.

Anti-smoking group New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) backed the WHO is pushing for the passage of graphic health warning laws, saying it will help accelerate the government's efforts to reduce tobacco consumption in the country.

"Now that the Sin Tax Law is already in place, another move that would be helpful in convincing smokers to immediately quit smoking is to show graphic warnings through pictures of the ill-effects in cigarette packs," said NVAP president Emer Rojas in a statement.

"With a clearer message to convey through pictures of the deadly results of smoking, the graphic health warnings would be effective tools in encouraging smokers to stop consuming these small but deadly cigarette sticks," he added.

Rojas noted how the text-based warnings have already proven to be ineffective in reducing tobacco consumption among Filipinos.

"The text-based warnings have been long standing practices in the country and it no longer serves its purpose. It is now time to convert them to picture warnings, which would show the public the more distinct effects of smoking," said Rojas.

On Saturday, the 27th World No Tobacco Day was celebrated by the international community with the WHO spearheading calls for countries to raise taxes on tobacco.

On Friday, the Department of Health (DOH) said the 15-month-old Sin Tax law is already proving to be effective, at least on the primary target population of the youth and the poor, based on the results of a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey last March.

This came as the youth and the poor both showed significant reduction in smoking prevalence between December 2012 and March 2014.

The DOH, however, admitted that seeing a similar effect all over the country's socio-economic class and age groups will take some time.

Because of this, the DOH said it is one with the calls for the passage of a picture-based warning law if it will help speed up the reduction of tobacco consumption in the country.

"It is the DOH's advocacy to help reduce or eliminate the deadly smoking habit of Filipinos so we are in favor of the picture-based warnings law," said DOJ spokesperson Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy.

Because of this, Lee Suy said they are hopeful that lawmakers will realize that they need to pass such a legislation if such a goal is to be attained.

In the Philippines, the 2009 Global Adult Tobacco Survey revealed that 28 percent or 17.3 million Filipino adults, aged 15 years and older, are identified as tobacco smokers. (HDT/Sunnex)

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