Opposition and administration congressmen on Thursday slammed proposals to impose a 400 percent increase on taxes imposed on cigarettes in a bid to encourage Filipinos to kick the smoking habit.
Congressmen cited a number of reasons in rejecting the proposal of the Department of Health and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP).
Rep. Simeon Datumanong (Lakas- Kampi, Maguindanao) warned that the proposed hike in taxes would only add to the suffering of Filipinos.
On the other hand, Rep. Patricio Antonio (Agbiag party-list) warned that thousands of farmers from tobacco-growing regions in the country will absorb the adverse impact of making the cost of cigarettes restrictive.
Antonio, whose constituency includes tobacco farmers in Region I, also stressed that imposing a 400 percent hike on cigarette tax is not a guarantee that Filipinos will stop smoking.
“They could probably shift to a low price brand or just go back to the traditional rolling of cigarette which has been a practice in many parts of the country,” said Antonio, who represents the Ilocanos in the lower chamber.
Backing Antonio’s statement is Rep. Jeci Lapus who also represents a tobacco-growing province of Tarlac.
“To discourage smoking, advocates should present the result of studies on the ill effects of smoking on the environment and health,” Lapus said.
Lapus said the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue would be in a better position to state the tax rate on cigarettes if the government pushes through with the tax hike.
Rep. Pedro Romualdo (Lakas-Kampi, Camiguin) expressed apprehension on the proposal saying it is impossible to stop anyone from smoking even if the government increased the tax on cigarette by 1000 percent.
Earlier, the DoH said a 400 percent tax hike on cigarettes would bring up the price of a cigarette stick from P2 to P7, and a pack from P30 to P120.