Anti-tobacco activists demand 1,000% increase in cigarette prices
Anti-smoking activists are pushing the Philippine government to increase the price of cigarettes by 1,000 percent.
The proposal was raised by a World Health Organization (WHO) official during a “smoke-free summit” in Baguio City yesterday (Tuesday August 27).
Dr Florante Trinidad of the WHO Tobacco Free Initiative program said the country’s universal healthcare system could justify further price hikes, despite arguments that are bankrupting tobacco companies would be counterproductive.
Dr Trinidad said the country should follow the lead of countries such as Japan, New Zealand and Australia, which have drastically reduced rates of smoking by making it an expensive habit.
In June, President Duterte enacted Republic Law 11346, which increased the tax on cigarettes from 35 to 45 pesos by 2020. This will be followed by an annual increase of five pesos until 2023. .
Currently, packs of 20 internationally recognizable cigarettes sell for around 110 pesos.
However, Dr Trinidad said the country’s tobacco taxes were still well below 82.2 percent in New Zealand and 77.5 percent in Australia.
âEnsuring good health for all Filipinos comes at a high cost. We pray for when all of these products will become very expensive, âsaid Dr Trinidad.
Tobacco control advocates will continue to seek increases in the price of cigarettes, “building on President Duterte’s support for the anti-smoking campaign,” he added.
âIt was not necessary to explain to him the impact of smoking on health. He is the champion of the tobacco control campaign, âsaid Dr Trinidad.
Baguio City, he added, has drastically reduced the number of smokers due to its strict regulations, which have effectively banned smoking in much of the Philippine summer capital.
According to a 2015 city health survey, the number of smokers in the city decreased by 18% of the population, or about 60,000 people.
The same survey also found that eight in 10 smokers said they wanted to quit.
Dr Trinidad also said the city of Baguio should consider whether its tobacco regulations have affected tourism. Either way, he suggested, the city should position itself as a destination where families can escape second-hand tobacco smoke.