Ten Filipinos die every hour from illnesses caused by smoking while the country loses nearly P500 billion annually from healthcare costs and productivity losses, according to an anti-tobacco group.
HealthJustice Philippines disputed the claims of tobacco companies that increasing taxes on tobacco would hurt tobacco farmers and lead to the loss of livelihood.
“The most important issue is none other than health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that tobacco consumption kills 10 Filipinos every hour, due to 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.
HealthJustice said the Philippines loses billions of pesos in terms of health and economic costs from smoking.
It cited a 2006 study by the WHO, Department of Health (DOH), University of the Philippines-Manila and the Philippine College of Medical Researchers Foundation showing 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 tax reforms in tobacco products will discourage people from smoking.
It quoted a World Bank study as saying that a 10 percent increase in taxes on tobacco products would lead to a 4 to 8 percent decrease in consumption, thus leading to saving thousands of lives.
“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,” HealthJustice said.
The tax reforms would also help 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, it said.
The group said the 2009 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) has estimated 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.