Losses on cigarettes-A A +A
Monday, November 22, 2010
MUCH has been said about the losses of government revenues due to corruption. Public services such as education, environmental protection have to make do with less, and inevitably come up short with its deliverables.
But corruption is not the only thing that’s bleeding the country dry. And worse, being gassed to death. I’m talking of cigarette smoking and of opportunity losses for their families.
It’s doesn’t help that we have a chain-smoking president who refuses to sacrifice for the nation by kicking the habit and setting an example for all cigarette junkies to do the same.
There is, as expected, no indication that the government will impose higher taxes on tobacco products. Yet the costs of treating the victims are borne by the families of Juan and María Six-Packers, who have to endure diseases and decreased incomes because of premature deaths blamed on smoking.
From 2000 to 2002, government excise tax from tobacco products averaged P18.92 billion annually. During that period, however, victims had to spend P46 billion a year for treatment of the derivative diseases, based on estimates made by epidemiologist Dr. Antonio Dans of the University of the Philippines. It goes without saying that’s double the amount of tobacco excise taxes that government earned.
From 2003 to 2006, the health and economic cost increased to more than six times the excise tax collection. Government earnings averaged P23.26 billion annually, while health and economic cost averaged P148.5 billion, based on estimates by the World Health Organization.
There are no official figures available for the succeeding years, but given the pattern of health and economic cost tripling every three or four years, the magazine Newsbreak estimates that the average amount could have increased to P445.5 billion in 2007 and in 2008. That would be more than 17 times the P25.28 billion annual average excise tax collection in those two years.
Mind you, these periods were under a non-smoking president. I’m not holding my breath that this administration will do better in reducing the cost on health and economic opportunities.
I’m not a smoker. Yet, that doesn’t mean I won’t be a victim of smoking. Out of every five cases of a heart attack in Metro Manila is attributed to exposure to secondhand smoke, said the DOH, citing the results of a survey conducted by antismoking advocates. Someone in government forgot that an ounce of prevention is worse than a pound of cure.
Also known as passive smoking, secondhand smoke is defined as the smoke from the burning tip of a cigarette and the smoke inhaled by a nonsmoker from a smoker.
The World Lung Foundation and the Paris-based International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease calculated that between 10 and 20 percent of heart attacks in Metro Manila could be linked to secondhand smoke depending on the number of hours of exposure per week.
Exposure to secondhand smoke for more than three hours daily can increase the risk of a heart attack by as much as 62 percent. More than half in Metro Manila encounter secondhand smoke daily in workplaces, restaurants and other public places.
What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. What is true in Metro-Manila is certainly true in Bacolod. I could just as die from a heart attack due to passive smoking just by walking downtown. The only havens are those in hotels, banks, malls and other airconned places.
Bacolod City has Ordinance 84, Series of 1993 banning smoking in public vehicles. But unlike the seat belt where the Land Transportation Office conducts spot-checking on drivers, I have yet to see traffic enforcers enforce the law on jeepneys.
Each time I walk downtown, I feel like I’m walking through a gauntlet, like one of the cavalrymen in Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade who rides into a valley of death.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on November 22, 2010.