March 9, 2010
GOOD news for anti-smoking advocates, but bad news for the tobacco industry in general.
The Department of Health will push for the printing of “picture-based warnings” against tobacco use on cigarette packs being sold to the public.
Stressing the need to intensify the government’s campaign against the ill-effects of cigarette smoking, Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral told a news conference on Friday that she favored the strategy.
The DOH would implement as soon as possible a “draft administrative order” covering such warnings, Cabral told anti-smoking advocates like the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP). Cigarette smoking is one of the lung health issues cited in Proclamation no. 2001, issued recently by President Macapagal-Arroyo, declaring 2010 as the “Year of the Lung.”
In her directive, the President stressed the need for “preventive measures through a more intensified advocacy campaign and effective strategies to curb the epidemic causing serious and debilitating lung disorders.” According to Cabral, the DOH would “continue our advocacy against cigarette smoking.”
Both PCCP and FCAP favor a total ban on tobacco use in the country.
Cabral, however, said “I don’t think we can do that.”
“It impinges on the rights of human beings to choose to die or not to die from diseases caused by smoking. All we can do is tell them the facts and this is what we would do if we were you and we hope you’ll do the same thing,” she explained. Dr. Sylvia Banal-Yang, PCCP president, and Dr. Maricar Limpin, FCAP executive director, both called picture-based warnings a “more effective” strategy against cigarette smoking.
“A picture speaks a thousand words. So when smokers see what tobacco use can do to their health, then maybe they’ll have second thoughts about buying cigarettes again,” said Yang.
Limpin strongly believes such warnings printed on cigarette packs would “convince the smoking public, especially the youth, that smoking is really bad for the health.”
“Such strategy is bad news for the tobacco industry in general. But many people in the industry, including tobacco farmers, are themselves convinced that cigarette smoking kills. Some farmers we talked to said they’re willing to shift to planting other agricultural products as long as the government helps them,” she said.
At the same time, the FCAP head called for the imposition of higher taxes on cigarettes, among other products, in support of both the anti-smoking and clean air campaigns.