MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers on Friday gave a cold shoulder on the proposal of the Department of Health and the Framewok Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) to increase by 400% the tax on cigarette products to discourage smoking.
Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said he is against any imposition of new taxes because this would burden Filipinos.
Agbiag partylist Rep. Patrico Antonio, for his part, said the hefty increase in the cigarette tax will affect the livelihood of thousands of tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region.
Antonio said the increase is also not an assurance that 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."
Tarlac Rep. Jeci Lapus echoed Antonio's view, saying that advocates should instead "present the result of studies on the ill effects of smoking on the environment and health" to discourage smoking.
Earlier, the DOH said a 400% hike on the cigarette tax would increase the price of a cigarette stick from P2 to P7, and a pack from P30 to P120.
The health department said the move would help reduce the number of smokers in the country while allowing government to increase revenues and trim the budget deficit.
FCAP, a coalition of groups and individuals in the medical community and faith-based organizations, is backing the DOH's proposal. It said increasing the tax on tobacco products would help raise funds for providing universal health care to 5 million indigent families.