Cigarette tax to be raised to P90 per pack?
Increasing the tax for cigarettes to P4.50 per stick or P90 per 20-stick pack was one of the ideas proposed during a meeting between officials from the Department of Health and anti-tobacco advocate Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP), reports Inquirer.net. The current tax rate per cigarette pack ranges from P2.47 to P27.16, "placing the Philippines among countries selling the cheapest cigarettes in Asia," according to FCAP. Should the tax increase be implemented, the cost of a cigarette stick would range from P5.50 to P7.50, and a pack from P97 to P190, according to the report.
The idea is inspired by the "Obama model," according to Inquirer.net In February 2009, United States Pres. Barack Obama, who used to be a smoker, signed a bill legalizing the increase in cigarette tax from $0.39 to $1.01 per pack to raise funds for the health insurance of poor children. In the Philippines, the funds raised from the tax increase would be partly used for the health care of about five million poor Filipinos.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona told Inquirer.net, "These are just thoughts that came about during the meeting... For now, it’s just an idea and an option we could take but I am not yet pushing for anything."
Ona’s head executive assistant, Dr. Yolanda Oliveros, said in a report by Inquirer.net, "[During the meeting], the secretary was open to following the Obama model if the tax increase would be applied in the Philippines." Oliveros told The Philippine Star, "Increasing the tax will reduce access to tobacco because we will reduce the capacity (of smokers) to pay. In doing this, our primary targets are the students. If cigarettes become more expensive, they won’t be able to afford it anymore."
Inquirer.net reports that FCAP Executive Director Dr. Maricar Limpin said in a statement, "It will go a long way for the Aquino administration, (which is) facing a huge budget deficit while dealing with very high expectations on poverty alleviation and addressing the social welfare of the people."
There are about 17.3 million smokers in the Philippines, including Pres. Noynoy Aquino, according to Inquirer.net.