Cigarette tax hike must be 'reasonable,' says Japan Tobacco PH boss

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2019 11:06 AM | Updated as of May 24 2019 11:08 AM

MANILA – Japan Tobacco's Philippine unit said Friday excise taxes on cigarettes should be "reasonable" to prevent the rise of smuggling.

The Department of Finance is mounting a final push for higher tobacco taxes in the last days of the current Congress to fund universal health care.

The Senate is pushing for a P60 per pack tax on cigarettes, double the current P32. The House of Representatives' version seeks to raise it to P45 per pack, to be implemented in tranches.

Japan Tobacco International Philippines president and general manager Manos Koukourakis said the House bill "increases tobacco taxes in a reasonable and predictable way."

A steep increase in tobacco taxes will hurt farmers, retailers, suppliers and those that generate income from tobacco consumption, he said.

Under the current "sin tax" regime, Koukourakis said revenues reached P130 billion in 2018, and the number of smokers fell to 16 million last year from 26 million in 2013. 

“When such a unique balance is stricken why would anyone like to disrupt it? Not sure there is another country in the entire Asia Pacific to be at this fortunate situation,” he said.