Philippines: 64% of Filipinos will support candidates who push for higher tobacco taxes – Pulse Asia

5 November 2018:
By Sofia Tomacruz
Source: Rappler

Pulse Asia research director Ana Tabunda says majority of Filipinos are supportive of increases in tobacco taxes as health is considered a ‘most urgent personal concern’ for many

MANILA, Philippines – Six out of 10 Filipinos will support candidates who will push for an increase in tobacco taxes, survey results from pollster Pulse Asia showed.

Pulse Asia Research Director Ana Tabunda presented these findings in a press conference at the Department of Health Monday, November 5.

Pulse Asia’s survey asked respondents whether or not candidates who were in favor of increasing tobacco taxes, which would result in higher cigarette prices, should be supported or rejected.

The survey showed a majority of respondents – 64% – would support candidates who pushed for higher tobacco taxes.

Meanwhile, among the 23% of respondents who were current smokers, 36% said they would do the same.

Pulse Asia’s survey, which was done from September 1 to 7, also showed that 67% or about 2 out of 3 Filipinos agreed that tax on cigarettes should be increased.

For respondents who were current smokers, 40% of them likewise agreed tobacco taxes should be increased.

Tabunda said the two statements were explained in the context of additional revenue from increased taxes being used to address the health needs of Filipinos, especially those with illnesses arising from smoking.

“You can imagine that even past users or even former smokers or relatives of current smokers who already have health problems arising from the use of tobacco will be in support of the measure,” she said.

Tabunda also said results reflected the importance of health to Filipinos.

“If you gave our people 3 choices in a list of about 8 choices, about 56% – it would play around that figure – would say their most urgent personal concern is health,” she said.

For Health Secretary Francisco Duque, findings from the recent Pulse Asia survey could serve as a reference for candidates. They could continue including health in their agenda when campaigning for the 2019 national and local elections.

“The fact that both houses of congress have supported the universal health care – nothing can be more explicit in support than what both houses of congress have shown all the way consistently. I think many of them are smart and wise to anchor their political relevance on one of the more important issues which is health, among others. So we’re on the right track,” Duque said.

He added, “With regard to taxes on sin products, I think this is going to give them a good boost in their electoral chances and I think they’re sensitive to the public’s pulse and therefore I’m sure they will support this very strongly.”

This comes as the Department of Health said it would need about P257 billion for the first year of implementation of universal health care. Part of the main sources of funding is the proposed increase in tobacco taxes to P90 per pack from the current P32.50. (READ: Cigarette prices to increase more with passage of universal health care bill)

The Senate and House of Representatives have yet to convene a bicameral conference committee to reconcile the different provisions in the two versions of the bill before it can be signed into law.