Philippines: Deaths due to smoking could be averted with tobacco taxation

29 January 2019
Filane Mikee Cervantes
Philippines News Agency:

MANILA — An estimated 713,000 smoking attributable deaths could be averted by a measure seeking to increase the excise tax on cigarettes, the Department of Health said Tuesday.

During the Senate ways and means committee hearing on tobacco tax bills, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the estimated number was a result of a simulation exercise developed by the DOH, the Department of Finance, and the World Health Organization if the tax policy comes to fruition.

Both the DOH and DOF backed Senator Manny Pacquiao’s bill seeking to double the tobacco tax from the current PHP30 per pack to PHP60 per pack.

“The proposed rate will avert 713,000 deaths and will result in 3.2 million quitters in adults and this rate will also bring down smoking prevalence to 16.8 percent and help reach our non-communicable disease target,” Duque said.

Duque said the proposal would achieve the twin objectives of protecting the public’s health and, at the same time, raise sufficient revenues to underpin the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law.

The health objectives include bringing smoking prevalence down to 15 percent from the current 23 percent and saving more than half a million Filipinos from dying due to smoking-related complications.

“It is also noteworthy to mention that the very poor, the very young, and the very old are the most price-sensitive hence predisposed to benefit from raising tobacco taxes both in terms of health and economic burden due to tobacco-related illnesses,” Duque said.

Duque said current evidence shows that the Sin Tax Law of 2012, which raised tobacco and alcohol taxes, was effective in reducing the proportion of Filipinos who smoke.

However, he noted that the effects have “plateaued”.

He cited that the Philippines is the third highest among ASEAN countries in terms of smoking prevalence, and the seventh lowest in terms of tax burden for tobacco products — making cigarette prices cheaper than in neighboring countries. (PNA)