Lawmakers not keen on proposal to hike cigarette taxes by 400%

August 28, 2010 11:31 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Aug. 28 — Lawmakers gave a cold shoulder on the proposal by some sectors to increase by 400 percent the tax on cigarettes to stop smoking in the country.

Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said he is against any imposition of new taxes since these would only add to the suffering of the Filipino people.

Agbiag party-list Rep. Patricio Antonio said the increase on cigarette tax will surely affect the livelihood of thousands of tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region who rely on tobacco industry as their main source of livelihood.

He said the 400 percent increase on cigarette tax is 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," said Antonio, who represents the Ilocanos in the Lower Chamber.

Tarlac Rep. Jeci Lapus said that to discourage people from smoking, "advocates should present the result of studies on the ill effects of smoking on the environment and health."

He said the Department of Finance (DoF) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) would be in a better position to state the tax rate on cigarettes if the government pushes through with the tax hike.

On the other hand, Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo expressed apprehension on the proposed hike on cigarette tax, saying it is impossible to stop anyone from smoking even if the government increased the tax on cigarette by 1,000 percent.

The Department of Health (DoH) earlier said that a 400 percent tax hike on cigarettes would bring up the price of a cigarette stick from P2 to P7, and a pack from P30 to P120.

The DoH said the move would help reduce the number of smokers in the country, deter the youth who comprise 20 percent of the smoking population while allowing government to increase revenue to reduce the budget deficit.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) is backing the DoH proposal, which said increasing tobacco taxes would help raise funds for providing universal health care to five million indigent families. (PNA) RMA/LGI

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