The Department of Health said the overwhelming support of various sectors including medical societies, youth groups, cancer patients, and the academe in the sin tax bill is proof that Filipinos are clamoring for the end of the tobacco epidemic.
“We want to commend everyone including the various medical societies, cancer survivors, the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, and the academe for coming to the Senate hearing and telling our legislators that our health and survival are a primary concern to all of us. With one voice we were able tell our legislators that the sin tax is an anti-cancer tax more than a measure to increase revenues,” said DOH Undersecretary Ted Herbosa.
Herbosa said the presence of economist and University of the Philippines Prof. Leonor “Liling” Briones who backed the sin tax bill is proof that an approval of the measure is not only good for health but is also a wise move to increase government revenue.
“It doesn’t need to take a math genius to know the difference. The health cost for treating the top four killers of Filipinos, all smoking-related, is a total P188 billion. At present, government is collecting P26 billion yearly from tobacco companies. SB 3249, once approved, will add a mere P30 billion from tobacco,” Herbosa explains.
Aside from cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the top four causes of deaths in the Philippines.
Herbosa said the high smoking prevalence rate in the country is causing one Filipino to die of lung cancer every hour. Aside from lung cancer, there are 38 other diseases associated to tobacco consumption.
According to the National Epidemiology Center, the number of lung cancer cases in the Philippines rose from 7,215 in 2005 to 8,243 in 2010 with most patients coming from the National Capital Region and in regions 1, Central Luzon and CALABARZON.
“This is a 14 percent rise during a five-year period. If we don’t do anything to reduce the number of smokers and discourage our youth from taking up this deadly habit, we will see a lung cancer epidemic a few years from now,” warned Herbosa.
The Philippines has the highest number of smokers in the Southeast Asian region (17.3 million) but is second to having the lowest price of cigarettes next only to Cambodia. The prices of tobacco products here are very cheap and accessible that even school-aged children can buy a stick at a very low 50 cents.
The country has also the highest smoking rates among the youth in the region with 28 percent of boys and 18 percent of girls aged 13-15 consuming tobacco.
“As experienced by other countries who raised taxes on tobacco products, imposing higher taxes would discourage our children from smoking and reduce consumption among adult smokers. We want the tobacco industry to carry the burden of health care costs that the government is forced to address because of the millions of people who get sick due to smoking,” said Herbosa.
Aside from tobacco control and treatment of smoking-related diseases, Herbosa said revenues from the sin tax would be used to finance the Aquino administration’s universal healthcare program (DOH Press Release)