Absolute prohibition on retail sale of tobacco products with GHW starts Nov. 4

By November 4, 2016, all tobacco-product packages sold and distributed in the country must have the prescribed GHWs.

All tobacco products manufactured or imported for sale in the Philippines are now required to carry graphic health warnings (GHWs) – placed in the lower 50 percent of both sides of the packages – starting November 4, 2016, otherwise penalties await those that will disobey. 

This is in accordance to Republic Act No.10643 or the “Graphic Health Warning Law’’ implemented in March, which provided the tobacco industry with beyond six-month transition period to dispose of their old packaging stocks.

The law also provides that cigarette packs from a manufacturing facility or imported into the Philippines are no longer allowed to have labels/descriptors such as “low tar,” “light,” “ultra-light," “mild,” “extra,” “ultra” and similar terms in any language.

Manufacturers, importers, and distributors as well as sellers and retailers will be subjected to large amounts of fine once law is violated, or even imprisonment if the offense is repeated to a maximum level.

Penalties vary among manufacturers, importers and distributors, which amount to:

  • First offense: A fine of not more than five hundred thousand pesos (P500,000);
  • Second offense: A fine of not more than one million pesos (P1,000,000); and,
  • Third offense: A fine of not more than two million pesos (P2,000,000) or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both, at the discretion of the court.

The GHW Law also states that business permits and licenses, in the case of an erring business entity or establishment, shall be revoked or cancelled.

Meanwhile, the following penalties will individually apply to "retailers/sellers" of tobacco products that will be caught committing the offense as well as their agents/ representatives for any violation of Sections 6 and 7 of R.A. 10643, insofar as they are involved in the display, offering for sale and selling of the covered products, as well as Section 11 of the Act:

  • First offense: A fine of not more than ten thousand pesos (P10,000);
  • Second offense: A fine of not more than fifty thousand pesos (P50,000);
  • Third offense: A fine of not more than one hundred thousand pesos (P100,000) or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both, at the discretion of the court.

The business permits and licenses, in the case of a business entity or establishment, shall be revoked or cancelled.

Each day that non-compliant tobacco packages are found in the retail establishments of the retailers after the compliance date will count as one offense.

An additional penalty of five thousand pesos (P5,000) per day shall be imposed for each day the violation continues after having received the order from the Department of Trade and Industry notifying the retailers of the infraction.

With 240 Filipinos dying every day owing to major tobacco-related diseases, the GHW Law aims to warn Filipinos who cannot read or understand the current text warnings on cigarette packs, through picture-based warnings.

Digital copy of Republic Act 10643:

Photo source: The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

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