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Anti-tobacco campaigners vow to make ‘sin’ tax measure an election issue

Date Published: October 03, 2012

by JONATHAN L. MAYUGA

ANTI-CIGARETTE smoking advocates on Tuesday threatened to embark on a campaign for higher tax on tobacco and liquor products an election issue if lawmakers will not pass a “real sin tax measure” that will cause the price of cigarettes to go up.

Dr. Maricar Limpin of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines and Dr. Tony Leachon, Department of Health consultant on non-communicable diseases, along with Emer Rojas, president of New Vois Association of the Philippines, said their campaign against cigarette smoking will not stop with the passage of the so-called sin-tax law by Congress.

“Even after the 2013 elections, we will make sure that our campaign will affect the political careers of our lawmakers who will make a vote in favor of cigarette companies,” Limpin told reporters during a press conference in Quezon City.

Organized by the Action for Economic Reforms, the group said members of the Senate  Committee on Ways and Means  seemed to be leaning towards multiple tax tiers that would not lead to higher price of cigarette products.

“Cheap cigarettes will still be accessible to the youth and the poor, which will lead to higher non-communicable diseases deaths in the future,” says Leachon.

According to Rojas, a largynectomee, or a person who has undergone laryngectomy enacting sin-tax law that will cause cigarette and liquor products to go up is necessary to discourage smoking among the poor and even children whose addiction to smoking and drinking is widely known in the Philippines.

Rojas is using an electronic gadget, a simple vibrating machine which replaces his lost vocal cords, to be able to communicate verbally.

“Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide.  It kills more people than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.  And what is alarming is that 72 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries like the Philippines,” he told reporters.

Limpin and Leachon are both members of the Philippine College of Physicians.  Both specialize in lung care, while Rojas leads the group of cancer survivor.

Also, members of the Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means, according to the group, are leaning toward the passage of low tax rates, similar to the industry’s proposal.  Its implication, they said, results to lower revenues that can be used for health care for the poor.

Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, during the same press conference, urged lawmakers to do away with their lip service by enacting a real sin-tax measure that will cause price of liquor, especially cigarettes, to go up so that they will no longer be cheap and affordable.

According to Cabral, the sin-tax measure should be a health measure, more than a revenue measure.

The group expressed grave alarm that Sen. Ralph Recto, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, who, according to the group, is likely to come up with “a very diluted version of the bill,” which renders the health objective irrelevant and leans toward the tobacco industry’s proposals.

(reposted from businessmirror.com.ph, October 02 2012)

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