Philippines: Court upholds picture health warnings

Aug 20, 2010

THE Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said that they are now more confident in fighting the people’s right to information after they won its first victory against tobacco companies.
The Health department together with health and law professionals celebrated their victory after the ParaƱaque court denied an injunction in a case filed against the agency by Telengtan Brothers and Sons, or the La Suerte Cigar and Cigarette Factory.

“This order is a victory for the DOH and the Filipino public. It’s very tragic that we have all these tobacco companies filing cases left and right questioning the validity of an AO [Administrative Order 2010-0013] that was crafted with nothing but the health of the Filipino people in mind. The fight is far from over, but this is a positive development,” said Health Undersecretary Alex Padilla.

“The denial of the injunction gives us hope. Out of the top ten causes of mortality in the Philippines, at least seven are smoking-related. This is more than enough reason to stop tobacco consumption and save lives,” Dr. Daniel Tan, a World Health Organization awardee on tobacco control in the Philippines said also in a statement.

He lauded the health department for taking the huge step forward in protecting the people’s right to know about the ills that cigarettes bring.

“The AO should be celebrated, not questioned,” Tan added.

“This is a welcome development. Injunctions are issued to prevent injustice. Which is more unjust, the loss of profits to tobacco companies or the cancers and other deadly diseases that half their loyal customers will die of?” Lawyer Ipat Luna an environmental law expert said in a statement.

The health department said that after the issuance of AO 2010-0013, five tobacco companies have filed cases in various courts assailing its validity. In two of five cases, preliminary injunctions have been issued in their favor. An injunction, once granted, retains the status quo among parties.

However, the regional trial court denied the injunction because it would preempt a decision on the validity of the AO, the principal issue in the case.

The court also stated that as the penalties are not even operative yet, Telengtan Brothers and Sons’ “rouse of a possible violation of the law becomes a little bit imaginary in the meantime, and would not stand to prejudice petitioner.”

The May 24 AO is requiring tobacco manufacturers to put images of tobacco-related illnesses in their cigarette packs, and prohibiting them to use misleading tags such as “low tar,” “light,” “ultra-light,” “mild,” “extra,” “ultra” and similar terms.

The AO said that tobacco companies are expected to comply by ensuring that all cigarette packs have graphic information within 90 days from its effectivity, or by September 10 this year.

Graphic health information has shown to be very effective with the youth. Some studies also show that the pictures inspired smokers to quit the habit, with almost half of them smoking less frequently because of the new graphic information.


Source: The Manila Times (August 19, 2010)