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Raise tobacco excise tax to lower smoking rate

/ 05:12 AM June 15, 2018

This is in response to the article, “Higher taxes won’t lower smoking rate” (Inquirer.net, 6/3/18).

It quoted Nancy Sutthoff, spokesperson of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations, as saying that New Zealand’s smoking rate has yet to go down despite the government increasing tobacco excise tax by 10 percent every six months.

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What she cited may be the case in New Zealand, but we have already seen that smoking prevalence rates in the Philippines have decreased after excise tax on tobacco products was significantly raised.

Statistics show that smoking prevalence in the Philippines decreased to 22.7 percent in 2015, compared to 28.2 percent in 2009 before the Sin Tax Reform Law, which substantially raised excise taxes on tobacco products, was implemented. If the smoking rate remains constant in New Zealand despite the series of tax increases, then that means the government has not been increasing tax rates enough to decrease cigarette consumption. That is why, here in the Philippines, we are pushing for a tax increase of at least 100 percent.

Two senators have filed bills proposing to significantly increase tobacco excise tax rates: Sen. Manny Pacquiao filed Senate Bill 1599 proposing to raise tobacco taxes to P60 per pack, while Sen. JV Ejercito filed Senate Bill 1605 proposing a P90 increase per pack. Both represent a substantial increase over the current excise rate of P 32.50 per pack.

As cofounder and codirector of the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy, Sutthoff also advocates that cigarette smokers quit by switching to vaping. At the moment, there is no clear evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are effective as a tool to help stop smoking. Moreover, tried and  tested smoking cessation mechanisms and medications already exist, while e-cigarette smoking may still pose short- and long-term health risks that we are unaware of.

ANTONIO DANS, MD, National Academy of Science and Technology, University of the Philippines College of Medicine

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TAGS: smoking, tobacco, tobacco excise tax
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