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Gov’t wants graphic health warnings on vaping, heated tobacco products

LINDSAY FOX/PIXABAY

THE GOVERNMENT has ordered manufacturers, importers and sellers of vapor and heated tobacco products to print graphic health warnings on their packaging within 18 months,  according to the implementing rules and regulations of the laws taxing these products which were released Tuesday.

Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) No. 003-2020, issued by various agencies including the Department of Health (DoH) and Department of Finance (DoF), ordered the health warnings as part of the implementation of the “sin tax” laws. The JMC serves as the implementing rules and regulations for vapor and heated tobacco products taxed under Republic Acts (RA) 11346 and 11467, which both amend the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997.

The rules also limit the sale of such products to persons who are at least 21 years old.

The DoH will issue templates for the health warning, including those for inserts and other advertising, outside packaging and labelling, and other packaging from domestic and overseas manufacturers.

“Manufacturers, distributors, importers and sellers of heated tobacco products and vapor products are given a period of 18 months from the effectivity of the rules to comply with the requirements of the Graphic Health Warnings Law,” according to the circular.

The Graphic Health Warnings Law is otherwise known as Republic Act 10643, signed in 2014.

The circular was issued by the DoH, the DoF, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

The DoH and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will act as the regulating agencies for manufacturers, importers, and sellers of such products, with authority over packaging, advertising and distribution of vapor and heated tobacco products. The FDA is also tasked with conducting scientific studies on the health impact of these products.

The DBM will determine how the funds raised from taxes collected from these products will be allocated and released to tobacco-producing provinces, as provided for by law.

The DoF and BIR will also determine the rules for setting floor prices for vapor and heated tobacco products.

RA 11346, signed in July 2019, and RA 11467, signed in January 2020, increased the taxes levied on the so-called “sin” products including vapor and heated tobacco products to raise more revenue for the Universal Health Care program while discouraging consumption of these products.

“Consumers should buy HTPs (heated tobacco products) and ENDs (electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems) products that pass the certification process of FDA. Product claims and labeling to inform consumers of product content ensures the consumers’ right to information as well as exercise his right to an intelligent choice,” consumer advocacy group Laban Konsyumer, Inc. President Victorio Mario A. Dimagiba said via Viber Tuesday. — Beatrice M. Laforga

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