Anti-smoking group urges Duterte to adopt plain-packed cigarettes

AN ANTI-SMOKING group called Monday on incoming president Rodrigo Duterte to back the international push for the adoption of plain and standardized packaging of tobacco products.

In a statement, New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) president Emer Rojas said that given the political will of incoming president Rodrigo Duterte, they are confident that having plain packaging is highly possible in the country.

“Given the strong political will of incoming president Duterte to combat diseases and death, including cancer brought by smoking, there is no doubt that this initiative will get strong backing from the government,” said Rojas.

He noted how having the graphic health warning (GHW) Law passed by the outgoing Aquino administration can easily get a boost by adopting plain packaging among cigarette packs.

“Despite the positive response on the GHW-compliant packs, we must not sit on our laurels but rather move steps further by considering plain packaging of cigarette packs,” said Rojas.

The call comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a statement strongly urging state-members to consider adopting plain and standardized packaging of tobacco products.

In its separate statement, the WHO said countries are being encouraged to continue with the push towards eliminating the threat of tobacco-related illnesses.

“Plain packaging is an important demand reduction measure that reduces the attractiveness of tobacco products, restricts use of tobacco packaging as a form of tobacco advertising and promotion, limits misleading packaging and labeling, and increases the effectiveness of health warnings,” said the WHO.

“Plain packaging builds upon other measures as part of a comprehensive multi-sectoral approach to tobacco control. WHO is thus calling countries to get ready for plain and standardized packaging of tobacco products,” it added.

Plain packaging of cigarette products refers to adopting measures that restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images, or promotional information on packaging,

The brand names and product names, meanwhile, shall be displayed but in a standard colour and font style coupled with graphic health warnings (GHW).

The WHO noted how even the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control recommends that parties to the international treaty consider adoption of plain packaging.

“Policy makers, civil society, and the public can take action to ensure that their governments consider adoption of plain packaging,” said the WHO.

The Department of Health (DOH), though, does not appear to be too keen on immediately pushing for plain packaging.

In its Twitter account, the DOH said it wants to focus first on the full and strict implementation of the GHW before turning its eye on plain packaging.

“While the WHO is gearing towards plain packaging, the country’s celebration of the World No Tobacco Day will focus on the full implementation of the GHW Law,” said the DOH.

It noted how they want to ensure that all tobacco companies are already printing graphic health warnings on cigarette packs as required beginning last March 3.

In addition, the DOH said they are also gearing for the start of the prohibition of selling and distribution of non-compliant packages in the market beginning on November 4.

The call for plain packaging is the campaign of the WHO for this year's observance of the World No Tobacco Day on Tuesday, May 31. (HDT/Sunnex)
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