28 August 2019
BAGUIO CITY – Anti-smoking crusaders want to raise cigarette prices by 1,000 percent and capitalize on President Duterte’s campaign against cigarette smoking, an official of the World Health Organization said during a smoke-free summit here on Tuesday.
Dr. Florante Trinidad of the WHO Tobacco-Free Initiative program said the country’s universal health care system can justify further hikes in cigarette prices, regardless of arguments that driving tobacco companies out of business would be counterproductive.
Trinidad said the country wants to join 11 nations like, including Japan, Australia and island countries like Niue which were able to stem cigarette use, due in part to heavy taxes that made smoking an expensive habit.
In June, Duterte signed into law Republic Act No. 11346, which increased the cigarette tax from P35 to P45 by 2020, to be followed by an annual P5 hike until 2023.
A leading cigarette brand now sells for P110 a pack.
Trinidad said the country’s tobacco taxes are still below the 87.7 percent tax hike imposed on cigarettes in Niue, 82.2 percent in New Zealand and the 77.5 percent in Australia.
“Ensuring good health for all Filipinos has a high cost,” he said, so smoke-free advocates look forward to periodic increases not only for tobacco products, but also for liquor and high sugar beverages and treats, which are also habit-forming or addictive commodities.
“We pray for the time when all these products become very expensive,” Trinidad said.
Anti-tobacco advocates will continue to seek increases in cigarette prices, “taking advantage of President Duterte’s support for the no-smoking campaign,” he added.
“It has not been necessary to explain to him the (health impact of) smoking. He is the no-smoking campaign’s champion,” Trinidad said.
Baguio City, he said, has been able to reduce its population of smokers because of its tobacco regulations which banned smoking in many parts of the summer capital.
The number of smokers in the city dropped by 18 percent of the population (roughly under 60,000 dwellers), of which 1.5 percent are vapers or people who prefer e-cigarettes, according to a 2015 city health survey.
The same survey also says 8 of 10 active smokers indicated they wanted to quit the habit.
Trinidad said Baguio City should determine if its tobacco regulations have affected tourism.
He added that the city can position itself as a destination where families can escape second-hand tobacco smoke. /gsg