Health and wealth
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
A group of cancer survivors are appealing to our senators to approve the sin tax on tobacco products, arguing that failure to act on the 16-year delay in increasing the levy on cigarets may push the Philippines to a catastrophic cancer epidemic in a decade or two. The New Vios Association of the Philippines Inc., an organization of laryngeal cancer survivors, are saying that the country’s high smoking prevalence brought by aggressive tobacco marketing and the availability of cheap cigarets may trigger a cancer epidemic that could further burden the country’s healthcare system.
Former smoker and cancer survivor Emer Rojas, president of the NVAP, said he believes that increasing the sin taxes on cigarets will stop other families from experiencing what he and his family went through as he spent more than a million pesos in surgery and medication in his fight against cancer. The Department of Health tags smoking as a major risk factor for lung cancer, one of the top four killers of Filipinos. Rojas claims that P188 billion is lost to smoking-related deaths every year, and that economic burden caused by high tobacco consumption negates the revenues generated by the industry. He adds that the burden of smoking is heaviest on the poorest of the poor, who, according to the Philippine Institute of Development Studies, consume more cigarets than the richest quintile of the population. There are an estimated 17.3 million smokers in the Philippines, giving it the highest smoking prevalence in Southeast Asia.
The DOH estimates that around 170,000 deaths would be prevented during the first year of implementation of the sin tax while around 2 million smokers are expected to quit by 2016 as a result of a higher tobacco levy.
The fate of the sin tax bill is now in the hands of our senators. However, strong lobbying from the tobacco and alcohol industries have threatened to either leave it in limbo or have it watered down. We hope that the members of the Senate have learned from the Cybercrime law fiasco, especially with regards to the far-reaching effects of sloppiness where critical pieces of legislation are concerned, and diligently weigh all the pros and cons of all the aspects of the sin tax bill so that if ever it is passed, it will serve the common good and not the interests of the few.*