23 January 2014
Cigarette companies express support; Sen. Pia sees passage of Graphic Health Warning Bill
Senator Pia S. Cayetano is confident that the Senate will finally be able to pass the Graphic Health Warning (GHW) Bill in the 16th Congress after cigarette manufacturers expressed their support to the measure during Wednesday’s public hearing by the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.
In a surprising turn, representatives from four cigarette companies invited to the hearing all indicated their support – “in principle” – to the GHW Bill, while also proposing some amendments.
Industry representatives who spoke at the hearing include: Atty. Raul Academia, Director for Trade, Fiscal and Regulatory Affairs of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation Inc. (PMFTC); Atty. Augusto San Pedro, Legal Counsel of Japan Tobacco International (JTI); James Lafferty, General Manager of British American Tobacco Philippines (BAT); and Atty. Antonio Ocampo, General Manager of the Mighty Corporation Inc.
The committee took up Senate Bill Nos. 27 and 499, which were authored by Cayetano and Senate President Franklin Drilon, respectively. Both measures seek to require cigarette packs in the country to bear graphic health warnings showing the health risks of smoking and second-hand smoke to discourage Filipinos, especially the youth, from taking up the habit.
“I am pleased and surprised because I’ve conducted this same hearing six years ago, and back then, the cigarette companies were really opposed to this,” said Cayetano, the vice chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.
“But today, they expressed support and acknowledged the bill as a measure that would benefit the public. I would like to assume goodwill on the part of the four cigarette companies when they say that they support this, and I hope I won’t have to take back everything I said today in the future,” she added.
“The concerns they raised dealt with details, such as the size of the graphic health warning on the cigarette packs, which is understandable. I feel we could work this out with the other side, the health advocates who want a bigger graphic health warning. I hope that we can resolve this and have a law.”
PMFTC’s Academia raised concerns on several provisions, including the proposed size of the graphic health warning (which should take up 60% of the front panel and 60% of the back panel under the two bills), the compliance period for the release of the new packs, and the requirement to print several variations of the graphic health warning and to rotate these periodically.
JTI’s San Pedro questioned the provisions on allowable minimum packaging size, and the requirement to remove descriptors from cigarette labels, among others.
“They gave us their position papers which we will incorporate. I will present to them a new version which already includes their comments which I feel are reasonable. We will go through the process. Conduct a hearing, form a technical working group, where we hope to reconcile the suggestions of our resource persons, come up with a committee report and sponsor it on the floor. That could take around two months. And from there, we’ll see how long the plenary debates will take,” she explained, while noting that the two previous versions of the measure failed to hurdle second reading in the 14th and 15th Congress following lengthy debates in plenary. #