Prevention, better than cure, say heart specialists on Sin Tax bill

November 6, 2012 11:23 pm 

By Azer N. Parrocha

MANILA, Nov. 6 — “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” was an adage that cardiologists who were also members of the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) believed was applicable to address those who were against the sin tax bill.

Discussions during a press conference on Tuesday, dealt with the many issues involving the controversial sin tax bill, which was also scheduled for debate in the Senate at 3 p.m. on the same day.

Philippine Heart Association president Saturnino Javier said that they were in favor of the sin tax bill because the goal has always been to underscore the need for Filipinos to practice a healthier lifestyle.

“The harm [caused by smoking] can develop through time, but it can also kill instantly,” Javier said. “To some people, the first heart attack is the last one. It’s a traitor as we have always labelled it.”

Javier said that whether it is smoking that causes a sudden death or a slow death, it still stands to be viewed as a sin, therefore the need to pass the bill.

Meanwhile, Action for Economic Reforms senior economist, Jo-Ann Latuja stated that a single tax rate of P30 per cigarette pack will save at least 75,000 lives each year (at least 9% of which is due to prevention of deaths from heart diseases).

“If we accept Sen. [Ralph] Recto’s bill, then we will be sacrificing around 51,000 lives a year,” Latuja said. “If you compare revenues, obviously, we will get more if we pass Santiago’s version.”

“Santiago’s bill will reduce smoking prevalence from 31% to 26% in the first year alone and smoking prevalence will be further reduced as taxes will be regularly increased every year,” she added. “Anything less than the Santiago bill will sacrifice more lives. We are calling on the public not to accept a watered-down version of the sin tax bill. If we can even push higher, then let’s push for a higher tax.”

According to Latuja, Santiago’s version of the bill had the following features: A single tax rate for all brands (regardless of price), P30 high tax rate for cigarettes and yearly tax increases no less than the inflation rate.

This was so that it will be assured that tobacco products and alcohol products will not become more affordable as income increases in the coming years.

Also stressed during the presscon was the need for the harmful effects of smoking to be taught to the youth.

To PHA director and pediatric cardiologist , Jonas del Rosario, the sin tax bill will prevent the youth from getting hold of such “dangerous commodity”, referring to cigarettes .

“As early as 11 years-old they start to smoke even before high school because it’s (cigarettes) very easy to buy and very affordable ,” Del Rosario said. “Smokers get younger and younger and more people get sick.”

Speaking as a coordinator for the government and private sector all medical societies, Leachon said that they will bat for Sen. Defensor’s sin tax bill for higher taxes and more revenues.

“Every 10 % increase in price will have a corresponding 5 to 7 % reduction in the tobacco consumption,” Leachon said. “We’re batting for about 60 to 72 % increase in retail price for it to be effective. “We support this because it is [also the] highest barrier for kids to smoke,” he added.

PHA member and cardio specialist, Helen Garcia said that she would label smoking as a communicable habit. She said that the sin tax bill will be a measure to actually address the objective of all medical societies in the Philippines.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about preventing death,” Garcia said. “It’s not preventing 75,000 deaths alone; it’s preventing one death among Filipinos.” (PNA)



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