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October 13, 2014

Philippines Government Makes Progress Towards Large Graphic Warning

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(New York, USA) ––World Lung Foundation today congratulated the Government of the Philippines for progressing long overdue legislation to introduce large graphic health warnings on cigarette packaging. The Picture Based Health Warning Act requires graphic health warnings to appear on 50 percent of the front and back of all cigarette packs, which would dramatically improve the communication of the harms of tobacco to smokers, and prevent non-smokers from starting the habit.

The legislation would bring the Philippines into line with recommendations for compliance with a global treaty that obligates governments to put tobacco control measures into place. The treaty, WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), also recommends that graphic warnings should be rotated regularly in order to prevent fatigue; the Philippines’ legislation includes up to 12 variations of graphic health warnings to be rotated every 24 months.

In addition, the proposed legislation prohibits the use of misleading descriptors such as “low tar”, “light”, “ultra-light”, “mild”, “extra” or “ultra”. Research shows these terms mislead consumers to believe that a tobacco product is healthier, safe or less harmful, when in fact these products are not any less harmful than regular brands. The legislation now will be ratified before passing into law.

“We recognise the Department of Health and a strong team of tobacco control advocates who have worked tirelessly to build support for this legislation and we congratulate the Government of the Philippines for adopting it in the face of relentless lobbying from the tobacco industry.”Peter Baldini, Chief Executive, World Lung Foundation, commented: “Today marks a hard-won victory for public health in the Philippines. For years, the tobacco industry has delayed and tried to derail a measure that really works to reduce tobacco-related disease. When smokers see an effective graphic warning, they think twice about their habit and are more likely to try and quit. Without clear information, they continue harming themselves and the people around them.

According to The Tobacco Atlas, 22 percent of male and 8 percent of female deaths in the Philippines are due to tobacco. It is estimated that nearly half (46.8 percent) of adult males and a tenth (9.9 percent) of adult females are current smokers and over half (54.5 percent) of youths aged 13-15 are exposed to secondhand smoke in the home.

Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of mortality in the world today, and is responsible for more than five million deaths each year—one in ten preventable deaths worldwide. Research has shown graphic warnings are one of the most effective means to prompt people to quit tobacco. It is one of the World Health Organization’s M-P-O-W-E-R (W=Warn) strategies to reduce tobacco consumption. M-P-O-W-E-R strategies are endorsed and promoted by the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, of which World Lung Foundation is a principal partner.

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