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Pimentel files bill seeking to require cigarette manufacturers to use plain packaging

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By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III is seeking to simplify the packaging for all cigarettes and other tobacco products being sold in the country.

Pimentel has filed Senate Bill No. 2191, which aims to require the use of plain packaging for both locally-manufactured and imported tobacco products introduced in the Philippine market to highlight government-mandated health warnings.

Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel was the first to file his certificate of candidacy at the COMELEC office in Intramuros, Manila. (KEVIN TRISTAN ESPIRITU / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel (KEVIN TRISTAN ESPIRITU / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In filing the measure, the reelectionist lawmaker cited studies supposedly showing that more smokers have attempted to quit smoking in countries where plain packaging laws have been enforced.

The Philippines, following other countries, has adopted measures and laws to curb and regulate the production, sale and use of tobacco due to its effects on public health, Pimentel said.

“Yet despite these developments, the Philippines has been tagged as the second largest tobacco consumer in Southeast Asia,” he lamented.

The senator also mentioned a recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) finding that 12 percent of Filipino students aged 13 to 15 years admitted to smoking cigarettes while 14.5 percent admitted to using other tobacco products.

Of those older than 15 years, the prevalence of tobacco product use was 24.7 percent with daily users at 18.9 percent, the WHO study showed.

With his bill, Pimentel aims to “reduce” the attractiveness of tobacco products and increase on the other hand the effectiveness of health warnings.

If passed into law, cigarette packs would have to comply with the required appearance: these should be in black color, no decorative ridges or any other embellishments, and the brand name should be printed in white.

The graphic health warning which is mandated by Republic Act 10643 would still be displayed in the package.

Failure to comply with the said packaging requirements will subject the products for confiscation by the authorities.

Violating manufacturers and distributors of the tobacco products, meanwhile, will be slapped with penalty ranging from P500,000 to P2 million, imprisonment of not more than five years and possible revocation of business permits and licenses.

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