Anti-smoking group, New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), expressed concerns over the possibility of cheaper cigarettes being introduced in the market saying it will be counterproductive to the goals of the Sin Tax Reform Law.
According to NVAP President Emer Rojas, having cheaper brands of cigarette products will only give the public a window to splurge on their smoking vice without the worry of spending much.
“It is Sin Tax Law’s goal to make cigarette products inaccessible to the people, especially to the poor and the youth. How can having cheaper brands prove to be helpful to the people’s health?” said Rojas.
He noted how Fortune Tobacco and Philip Morris are already looking to produce cheaper cigarettes called “Splash” to be sold at P2 per stick, which is one peso lower than other brands.
“We are worried that having a legal way to sell cheaper cigarette will render the health objectives of the sin tax law almost useless,” Rojas said.
Based on a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) last year after the Sin Tax law was passed, the prevalence of smoking for those belonging to Socio-Economic Class E or the very poor dropped from 38 percent in December 2012 to 25 percent in March 2014.
The survey commissioned by the Department of Health (DOH) also showed that smoking prevalence among those belonging to the 18 to 24 years old age group was also reduced from 35 percent in December 2012 to 18 percent in March 2014.
Aside from making cigarettes accessible to the public anew, Rojas also warned that allowing more smokers to fan their vice will result to more government resources needed to spend for curing those who will develop smoking-related illnesses.
“Allowing more to smoke will be counterproductive since more can develop diseases from smoking and more will need to get treatment that will be shouldered by the government,” said the known cancer survivor.
He said it would be better if such funds will just be utilized for health promotion instead as the people will avoid getting sick if properly informed and educated.
It should be noted that most of the revenues from the sin products are being allocated by the DOH to fund universal health care, upgrade medical facilities, and train doctors and nurses.
It was back in January 2013 when the Philippine government began imposing higher tax rates on tobacco products, which resulted to higher prices of cigarettes.
Rojas, then, called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to evaluate the looming entry of cheaper cigarette products since the agency is the chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-Tobacco).
“We hope that the DTI will spearhead efforts to look into this matter if we are to prevent a relapse in the pre-Sin Tax Law days with the introduction of cheaper cigarettes to the market,” said Rojas.
Section 2 of Republic Act No. 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 states that the government shall “institute a balanced policy whereby the use, sale, and advertisements of tobacco products shall be regulated in order to promote a healthful environment and protect the citizens from the hazards of tobacco smoke”.