GMA URGES FILIPINOS TO FOLLOW NEW NO-SMOKING LAW

Manila, June 25, 2003 (Star) President Arroyo urged Filipinos yesterday to kick the smoking habit, saying it would not only improve their health but also that of others, especially non-smokers.

Mrs. Arroyo made the appeal a day after she signed a landmark bill into law, the Tobacco Regulation Act, which further tightened government control on tobacco products.

Republic Act 9211, among other stipulations, prohibits smoking in enclosed public places, including public passenger vehicles. It also banned the sale of cigarettes to minors and imposed regulations on cigarette advertisements.

Anti-tobacco activists estimated the number of smokers in the country to go down by 30 percent if the new law is strictly implemented.

An estimated 32 million Filipinos, or 40 percent of the population, smoke.

"That is, if the total ad ban will be truly enforced. The law would be implemented phase-by-phase and we might achieve this result only in 2008," said Encarnita Limpin, president of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance of the Philippines. FCAP is an umbrella organization of anti-tobacco activist groups in the country.

Limpin added that the new law contained some loopholes.

"We are in a way happy because, at least, there would be a regulation but its not the law we wanted. Well meet to discuss what we can do, but definitely well do something about this," Limpin said.

Her group preferred the laws original version, authored by Sen. Juan Flavier, which called for health warnings to be prominently printed on the front and reverse sides of cigarette packs.

The new law required warnings to be printed initially on one side of the pack and moved later on to the front. Marichu Villanueva, Sheila Crisostomo


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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