SC asks tobacco firm to comment on bid allowing picture warnings on cigarette packs

MANILA, April 6 (PNA) — The Supreme Court (SC) has required a tobacco company to comment on the petition filed by former Department of Health (DOH) secretaries seeking to allow graphic picture warnings on cigarette packs.

In a one-page resolution, the SC Third Division gave Mighty Tobacco Corporation a period of 10 days within which to comment on the petition-in-intervention filed by former DOH Secretaries Francisco Duque III, Jaime Galvez-Tan, Alberto Romualdez, Alfredo Bengzon and Esperanza Cabral.

Cabral was the one who issued the order requiring the inclusion of pictures depicting harmful effects of cigarettes on their packaging.

Likewise, the DOH, represented by current Secretary Enrique Ona was given the same period within which to submit a similar response.

The Supreme Court (SC)

The Supreme Court (SC)

In their petition, the former DOH chiefs said “the meddling of the tobacco industry is preventing the DOH from carrying out its mandate to protect and preserve the health and lives of Filipinos.”

Tobacco-related diseases such as stroke, cancer, heart attacks and tuberculosis, among others, comprise seven out of the ten primary causes of death in the Philippines.

DOH Administrative Order No. 13, otherwise known as the “Graphic Health Information Order”, was signed by Cabral in May 2010, requiring all cigarette manufacturers to put pictures depicting the harmful effects of cigarettes on their packaging.

It also prohibits manufacturers from using misleading words on cigarette packs, like “mild,” light,” “ultra-light,” and “low tar.”

Tobacco companies were given only until September 2010 to comply, but instead they took the DOH to court by filing cases in the cities of Marikina, Pasig, Paranaque, Tanauan and Malolos.

Fortune Tobacco Corporation has also won the case against the DOH when it disallowed the DOH from implementing the order.

Cigarette companies such as Mighty Tobacco and Fortune Tobacco argued that the DOH order was unconstitutional because it usurps legislative power.

The DOH order was based on the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to which the Philippines is a signatory.

However, cigarette companies said that only Congress could implement provisions under FCTC.

Citing international studies, the petitioners told the SC that picture warnings are proven to be effective in motivating smokers to quit, noting that, when it was implemented in Brazil, seven out of 10 (67 percent) smokers were motivated to quit, stressing that, the lesser tobacco use, the fewer tobacco-related deaths. (PNA)

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