MANILA, Philippines - Sin tax advocates said tobacco farmers are being misled into thinking that the measure will be to their disadvantage.
In a statement, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) executive director Maricar Limpin said: “The tobacco industry is spreading lies in the guise of protecting tobacco farmers. Health advocates are being demonized as the enemy but it’s actually the other way around. The tobacco industry’s only concern is to preserve its business. It is surely not concerned about the plight of tobacco farmers who remain in abject poverty even after years of toiling tracks of land.”
She said advocates should not be made the enemies.
She said the sin tax measure will actually help farmers, since it will allocate 15% of revenues as a safety net for them for alternative livelihood.
Citing data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), Limpin said tobacco production has been decreasing over the years from 81,723 metric tons in 1990 to 44,944 in 2011.
The BAS study also reveals that growing food crops such as eggplant and tomato yield higher incomes than tobacco.
The same data also showed that yearly income for growing eggplant is P199,000 per hectare while tomato is P167,000. Tobacco planting, on the other hand, produces a mere P85,000 in annual income.
Food crops are also harvested twice a year while tobacco is a one-time annual produce, Limpin noted.
“The industry has kept farmers believe that their very lives depend on the survival of the tobacco business -- never mind if they are producing a product that is causing millions of deaths and diseases,” said Limpin.
Meanwhile, Dr. Tony Dans of the University of the Philippines said deaths from cancer, heart disease, and stroke are higher in major tobacco-producing regions compared to those areas where there is low tobacco production.
“Will the tobacco industry come to their rescue when these farmers get sick from smoking-related diseases? No. These farmers will go to a government facility to seek treatment. That is why we need the sin tax’s approval to fund our healthcare system,” said Dans.