Higher tobacco taxes will stop increasing number of smokers, says doctor

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 29 2019 03:30 PM | Updated as of Jan 29 2019 03:31 PM

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MANILA -- A Senate bill seeking to double excise taxes on tobacco products will help halt the growing number of smokers in the country, a doctor specializing on lung concerns said Tuesday.

Smoking-related lung diseases remain among the top 10 cause of deaths in the country in 2018, said Lenora Fernandez, president of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians. 

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation spent around P5 billion on patients seeking help because of smoking-related diseases last year, she said.

"We urge the Senate to increase the tobacco excise taxes to as much as P60 to P90 per pack because this is the only way we can cause a negative rate of increase in smokers. There will be no increase in smokers," the doctor said during a Senate inquiry.

Excise tobacco taxes will be raised to P60 per pack from the the current P32.50 under Senator Manny Pacquiao's bill, which aims to fill a P40-billion fund gap for healthcare.

While doctors back the bill, tobacco farmers want the Senate to reconsider the proposed measure that will adversely affect their livelihood, said Isabela Vice Governor Antonio Albano.

"We just had the TRAIN Law last 2018 where you increased taxes for tobacco and here we are again. You can see the studies that there's reduction in tobacco growers already," he told senators.

Pacquiao earlier said raising tobacco taxes was the only choice for the government to increase revenue as it could no longer burden the poor with additional taxes on food and rice.