By Chito Chavez
The anti-tobacco use group New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) has decried the meager tobacco tax increase imposed by the House of Representatives on tobacco products.
Saying “it simply won’t do’’, NVAP president Emer Rojas said, in reaction to the decision of the House Committee on Ways and Means to adjust by an initial amount of P2.50 the tobacco tax rate.
He said it was not sufficient to attain the measure’s goal of minimizing to the fullest cigarette smoking and other tobacco use.
“Sectors of victims of tobacco, patient groups, the elderly, and youth express grave concern on the measly rate of P2.50 on tobacco tax for 2019,” said Rojas.
Under the proposed measure, tax on every cigarette pack would be increased from the current P35.00 to P37.50 in July 2019.
The measure would then impose a P2.50 tax increase and a miniscule four percent tax increase annually till July 2023.
Rojas said the bill approved by the House panel is a far cry from the original proposal of P45 as provided in the bill authored by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda.
”This will result to an increase in the number of smokers by 200,000 annually, which will likewise translates into 2,000 deaths annually due to tobacco-related diseases,’’ said Rojas.
NVAP’s position was supported by Ellirie Aviles, president of Sigaw ng Kabataan, who said that more young people could be lured to smoking mainly due to the affordable cheap price of cigarettes.
“The youth are the replacement smokers of the current customers of cigarettes, who are dying because of tobacco-related diseases,” said Aviles.
Rojas also said the adjustments will also be inadequate in providing the needed funds for the universal health care (UHC) program of the government.
“The low rate will generate insufficient revenues to finance the UHC that was recently passed by the bicam committee. This threatens the implementation of the UHC next year,” noted Rojas.
“Sadly, the legislators failed to fulfill the people’s expected reforms,” he added.
The Department of Health (DOH) has also been pushing for the increasing of tobacco tax rates saying it is the best way to deter Filipinos from smoking and also address the projected UHC funding gaps.