Group claims 10 Filipinos die every hour from smoking
MANILA, Philippines—Ten Filipinos die every hour due to illnesses caused by smoking and the country loses nearly P500 billion annually in due to health care costs and productivity losses, an anti-tobacco group said Saturday.
HealthJustice Philippines disputed the claims of tobacco companies that increasing taxes on tobacco would hurt tobacco farmers and lead to many losing their livelihood.
“The most important issue is no other than health. At an alarming rate, the World Health Organization estimated that tobacco consumption kills 10 Filipinos every hour, due to diseases such as cancer, stroke, lung, and heart diseases brought on by cigarette smoking,” the group said in a statement.
“Even if a person does not smoke, the WHO warns that second-hand smoke causes hundreds of thousands of deaths to non-smokers due to the same smoking-related diseases,” it said.
“Moreover, Filipinos lose billions of pesos in terms of health and economic costs due to smoking-related deaths and diseases,” the group added.
HealthJustice said a 2006 study by the WHO, Department of Health, University of the Philippines-Manila and the Philippine College of Medical Researchers Foundation showed that the government’s “economic costs, including expenses for health care and costs of productivity losses,” reached P461 billion.
The group said price increases through taxation of tobacco products will discourage people from smoking.
“Following a World Bank study that a 10 percent increase in price will lead to 4-8 percent decreases in consumption for low to middle income countries, it is projected that implementing increases on tobacco taxes will significantly reduce the number of smokers and save thousands of lives,” the group said.
“A recent study by economists Filomeno Sta. Ana and Jo-Ann Latuja estimates that at least 870,000 smokers will quit and 310,000 lives can be saved when the needed excise tax reforms, which will significantly increase the price of cigarettes, are implemented,” it added.
HealthJustice said the tax reforms will help the government raise additional revenues for public health, with the Department of Finance estimating that as much as P30 billion to P40 billion additional revenues can be generated annually.
“Funds derived from these taxes can be used to promote the health and well-being of millions of Filipinos through health promotion activities and the Universal Health Care,” the group said.
It said the 2009 Global Adult Tobacco Survey estimates that more than 17 million adult Filipinos smoke while a DOH survey showed that Filipino children as young as five years old are already starting to smoke.
“If the current administration falls short of implementing measures to reduce tobacco consumption among its citizens, the health risks and economic losses will certainly become too much to bear in the near future,” the group said.
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