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Senate, House OK graphic health warnings on cigarette packs

(Updated 6:02 p.m.) Both the Senate and the House of Representatives on Monday passed a landmark legislation requiring tobacco companies to put picture-based health warnings on cigarette packs.

In the Senate, 18 senators present during the plenary session unanimously approved Senate Bill 27, which seeks to "instill health consciousness" among Filipinos by directing cigarette manufacturers to print pictures illustrating the ill effects of smoking on the packages of their products.

The measure—authored by Senate President Franklin Drilon, and Senators Pia Cayetano and Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV—underwent two major amendments before being approved by the Senate.

The amendments were proposed by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, who hails from the tobacco-producing province of Cagayan.

Under the approved bill, cigarette manufacturers are required to use half of cigarette packs' display area for the graphic health warning.

In Cayetano's original version, cigarette manufacturers were allowed to use 30 percent to 50 percent of the display area for the health warnings.

Enrile's proposal to set a maximum of 16 variations to the graphic health warnings on cigarette packs was also incorporated in the approved measure.

House version

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, 210 lawmakers approved House Bill 4590 during the plenary session. Under it, cigarette manufacturers and importers are required to allot 40 percent space on the package of tobacco products for the graphic health warning.

Manufacturers and importers who violate the law face a fine of P100,000 for the first offense and P500,000 for the second offense.

For the third offense, the erring tobacco company shall be meted out a fine of P1 million or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both at the discretion of the court.

The company’s business permits and licenses to operate may also be revoked or canceled.

Senators and House members are now expected to hold a bicameral conference meeting to reconcile the two versions of the proposed law. — KBK, GMA News