IRR for graphic health warnings on cigarette packs set for release in March 2016 –DOH

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) said on Thursday the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the graphic health warnings (GHWs) on cigarette packs is expected to be released by March 15, 2016.

This was disclosed by Atty. Alexander A. Padilla, Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president and chief executive officer, during the PhilHealth’s quarterly “Kapihan with PCEO” held at the City State Hotel along Shaw Blvd. in Pasig City.

Padilla, who is the chairman of the DOH-GHW Law IRR committee, said in answer to a query from the media that the GHW templates were already released by the DOH.

PhilHealth is a tax-exempt government corporation attached to the Department of Health for policy coordination and guidance.

Atty. Padilla assured that finalization in terms of signatures of other agencies involved is underway.

“We have also notified them (tobacco companies) and other stakeholders about it… Actually everything that will take place is just a formality… for them to respect the deadline set for them, particularly March and November,” the committee chairman said.

With the release of the IRR by March 2016, it is expected that tobacco products without GHWs in the packaging will not be allowed to be pulled out from the tobacco companies beginning on that period.

“This means that all the cigarettes packs that will be out from the tobacco companies by March should be containing GHWs already and non-compliance is a clear sign of violation,” Padilla said.

From that period (March 2016), another eight months is being given to both manufacturers and retailers to remove from the market all cigarette packages without GHWs that were previously out before the deadline.

The cigarette packs that do not have GHWs are presumed to be out in the market prior to the release of the IRR.

The GHWs in the cigarette packaging came from the 12 templates prepared by the DOH in line with the provisions of Republic Act No. 10643.

This law states that no tobacco product packaging shall be manufactured without GHWs one year after the DOH issues the templates that will be used.

By November 2016, packages that do not have GHWs will not be allowed to be sold.

The GHW law states that manufacturers and retailers shall ensure the removal of all displays of non-compliant tobacco product packages eight months after the picture warnings are required.

Earlier, the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) came out with a statement saying tobacco manufacturers should start complying with R.A. 10643.

The GHW law was signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III on July 15, 2014, with the aim of discouraging the public, through the use of images of the adverse health effects of smoking, from continuing or starting cigarette smoking vice.

According to the DOH, the GHWs are meant to discourage the youth and non-smokers to be hooked on smoking if they see for themselves the horrible health consequences of smoking which are visible on the GHWs at the packaging of the cigarettes.

Corresponding sanctions will be filed against those that will be caught violating the provisions in the IRR. Leilani S. Junio/PNA