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Cigarette firm clarifies GHW implementation

Ahead of the implementation of graphic health warnings (GHW), British American Tobacco (BAT) Philippines wants to clarify that cigarette packs offered for sale in retail stores are not yet required to have gruesome images of the health risks caused by smoking starting tomorrow.

(Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

(Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia)

In a statement, James Lafferty, BAT Philippines chief executive, said that the March 3 implementation date only requires cigarette manufacturers to have GHWs on their packs upon removal of the goods from their factories or release from Customs.

“It [March 3] does not mean that all packs offered for sale in the market or in retail stores are now required to be in the GHW format,” Lafferty said. “Consumers will start seeing packs with new graphic health warnings on retail shelves in the coming months.”

Republic Act 10643 or the GHW Law was enacted in July, 2014, which provided manufacturers and importers to start using graphic health warning packs 12 months after the Department of Health (DOH) released the picture templates.

The country’s health department released the picture templates on March 3 last year, thus paving the way for the March 3, 2016 implementation date.

“It is important to remember that the law provided for a two-step implementation period. In addition to the March 3 deadline, there is an eight-month period or until November 3 this year, when stores are still allowed to sell packs with the text health warnings,” Lafferty said.

“This means that in the interim the market will see a combination of both text and GHW packs.  After November 3, all packs should be GHW-compliant,” he added.

Meanwhile, other cigarette companies declined to comment on the implementation of GHW law.

“We believe it is important to clarify this in order to avoid confusion among retailers and consumers. But undoubtedly, BAT will fully comply to the letter of the law,” the BAT official said.

BAT Philippines, maker of Pall Mall and Lucky Strike cigarettes, also lauded the recent release of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the GHW law amidst earlier concerns that the lack thereof might delay the law’s implementation.

Earlier, anti-tobacco advocate HealthJustice Philippines reminded the cigarette companies that they should now start producing products with the prescribed graphic health warnings.

The law requires that 50 percent of the front and back of every cigarette pack be covered with graphic health warning with accompanying text. It also forbids usage of misleading terms such as “low tar” and “mild”, among others.

“Now that the graphic health warning templates have been released, there is now no excuse for using attractive tobacco packaging that deceives the public, especially the youth, into thinking that smoking is cool,” HealthJustice said.

To date, at least 77 countries and jurisdictions have finalized their graphic health warning requirements.