Manila, Philippines, August 29 — Cancer survivors and health advocates alike called for a tougher tobacco tax during the third hearing of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on sin taxes on Wednesday.
“It’s not enough that we earn millions of pesos, the more crucial of considerations is the new law’s potency to save millions of lives,” said Emer Rojas, Global Cancer Ambassador and a throat cancer survivor. “We are here to show what smoking has done to us because we want to tell our lawmakers that they can prevent this from happening to the younger generation. We do not want to be a mere cautionary tale. We want to be a wake-up call,” added Rojas, who was backed by several cancer survivors at the hearing. All breathe through a hole in their throats.
In the same event, health policy experts group HealthJustice stressed the need to correct the flaws of the current sin tax law. These flaws, according to the group, should be strategically corrected so that the approved bill will not only rake in additional funds to the national government’s coffers, but completely address the alarming costs of smoking in the country.
The group strongly recommends the removal of the price classification freeze, a shift to a single-tier tax structure, a high tax rate that compensates inflation, indexation of tobacco tax to inflation, regular increases to ensure low affordability among children, and the earmarking of funds for carrying out preventive health care programs or health promotion.
“Funding a health promotion mechanism is the most important component of a responsive tobacco tax law. It will make all the health benefits long-term,” said Atty. Irene Reyes, the group’s managing director.
An awardee of the prestigious Bloomberg Awards for Global Tobacco Control, HealthJustice penned Taxing Health Risks in 2010, a policy paper on tobacco excise tax and health promotion. ###