MANILA, Philippines — Studies conducted by several health groups reveal the Philippines has the cheapest prices of cigarettes in the world.
If to be compared with other countries, a pack of cigarette in the Philippines cost not more than a dollar and can be bought easily.
“In the Philippines, it’s less than a dollar or a dollar 50 pesos. In other countries, Singapore it’s nine dollars, Australia, it’s 15 dollars but people are still smoking. But we protect the poor and the very young who are the ones who cannot afford higher tobacco taxes,” said Department of Health (DOH) former Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean Ubial.
With this, a number of health groups and doctors have expressed concern over the possible rise in the number of Filipino smokers in the country.
They estimated that 200,000 more Filipinos will add to the current number of smokers by 2018.
And within six years, the health experts said it may further rise to a million if the government fails to approve the proposed imposition of more taxes on tobacco products.
Senator Manny Pacquiao’s Senate Bill 1599 or the act raising the excise tax on tobacco products aims to increase the prices of each pack of cigarettes to 60 pesos, while Senator JV Ejercito seeks an increase of 90 pesos per cigarette pack.
The group Action on Smoking Health (ASH) is in favor of the said proposals.
ASH said higher prices of cigarettes may help Filipinos to stop smoking, especially the youth.
“It should be single tax rate. They should apply a single tax rate for all. When the prices of cigarettes are cheap or expensive, the effect is the same. You will get ill or die because of cigarettes,” said Ash Executive Director Dr. Maricar Limpin.
A group of doctors and the former secretary of the Department of Health is also in favor of increasing the tax rates for tobacco products especially since it will help improve the revenue collection of the government.
The health experts said that the government might allocate the additional amount it can collect from the tobacco excise tax to the universal health care program for Filipinos.
“In 2012, they stopped 3 million people from beginning smoking just by signing a bill. They prevented 30, 000 deaths in that span. something the entire medical profession cannot do and so the power of this bill is really very important and we need to realize that enable to push for it hard. The higher the tax, the more lives we save,” said Sin Tax Coalition convenor Dr. Antonio Dans.
The proposed laws seeking to increase the tax rates on tobacco products filed by senators Manny Pacquiao and JV Ejercito are still pending in the Senate.
The senators are hoping that the said proposals will advance in Congress at the soonest possible time. — Aiko Miguel | UNTV News & Rescue