MANILA, Philippines—A Social Weather Stations survey on teenage Filipino smokers revealed that more than a quarter of them would quit if the price of a cigarette stick increased by P10.
Senate health chair Pia Cayetano was present hand when representatives from the SWS and the National Youth Commission (NYC) bared the results of a survey commissioned by Health Justice Philippines in late August.
Cayetano has indicated her support for higher sin taxes for tobacco and alcohol products
The survey covered 1,200 respondents aged 13 to 17 years old of whom 8 percent were smokers, 4 percent had quit the habit while the rest had not tried tobacco products at all.
SWS deputy director for surveys Vladimir Joseph Licudine presented the following data at the Kapihan sa Senado on Thursday:
• On average, Filipino minors who smoke usually consume 5 cigarette sticks a day;
• The “median amount” that would make 28 percent stop smoking is a P10-increase for a cigarette. Licudine assumed a scenario where the average price of a pack of cigarettes would reach P200.
• Three-fourths of minors who smoke admit that the habit is “harmful” to one’s health (50 percent “definitely harmful plus 25 percent “probably harmful”)
• One-fourth of minors who smoke insist the habit is “not harmful” to one’s health (10 percent “probably not harmful” plus 15 percent “definitely not harmful”).
Of the current smokers, 56 percent smoked Fortune products while 29 percent smoked the Marlboro brand. The rest consumed lesser known brands.
Licudine said 63 percent of the teenage smokers said graphic photos of adverse effects of smoking would make them reduce their consumption if these are posted in the cigarette packs; 34 percent would stop smoking while the remaining 3 percent would go on smoking.
Cayetano said the findings were a strong argument for raising sin taxes on tobacco products.
“Many times we do not realize that our future problems as adults are a product of lifestyle, the choices and the environment of our youth. We have the opportunity to change and become healthier by preventing them from falling into this bad habit,” she said.
Cayetano has openly admitted she prefers the sin tax version filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago that aims even higher sin tax revenue targets that the one being defended on the session floor by acting Senate ways and means chair Franklin Drilon.
Santiago’s bill would increase taxes on cigarettes and alcoholic beverages by P60 billion while Drilon has offered a “substitute” bill that is projected raise between P40 billion to P45 billion.
Drilon’s measure took the place of the strongly criticized committee report submitted by erstwhile ways and means chair Senator Ralph Recto that would only raise an additional sin tax collection of between P15 billion and P19 billion.
Cayetano said the SWS survey as well as other independent studies “all over the world” indicate that making cigarettes more expensive and less accessible would help deter their consumption.
NYC commissioner Giorgina Nava said the findings also make it imperative to bolster efforts to pre-empt tobacco use among young people “before they develop a taste” for the substance.
Meanwhile, Cayetano’s Nacionalista Party mate Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. held an impromptu news conference at which he claimed higher taxes would increase cigarette smuggling.
Marcos said he doubted the government would succeed in collecting more taxes from the tobacco industry once “it kills the goose that lays the golden egg.”