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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Solons not keen on supporting DOH proposal to hike cigarette taxes by 400 percent
Writer: Rowena B. Bundang, MRS-PRIB
27 August 2010 09:43:13 AM

House members today gave a cold shoulder on the proposal of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) to increase by 400% the tax on cigarettes to stop smoking in the country.

Rep. Simeon Datumanong (2nd District, Maguindanao) said he is against any imposition of new taxes since these would only add to the suffering of the Filipino people.

Rep. Patricio Antonio (Party-list, Agbiag) said the increase on tax cigarette will surely affect the livelihood of thousands of tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region who rely on tobacco industry as their main source of livelihood.

Antonio said the 400 percent increase on cigarette tax is not assurance that the people 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.

Rep. Jeci Lapus (3rd District, Tarlac) said making cigarettes expensive will not discourage people from smoking.

"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 (Lone District, 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. The move would help reduce the number of smokers in the country, deter the youth who comprise 20 percent of the smoking population while allowing government to increase revenue to reduce the budget deficit according to the DOH.

The Framework Convention is backing the DOH proposal on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines, which said increasing tobacco taxes would help raise funds for providing universal health care to five million indigent families.