MEMBERS of the House of Representatives gave a cold shoulder on the proposal of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) to increase the tax on cigarettes.

Representative Simeon Datumanong (second district, Maguindanao) said he is against any imposition of new taxes, likely by 400 percent, since these would only add to the suffering of the Filipino people.

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The increase on cigarette will affect the livelihood of thousands of tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region who rely on the tobacco industry as their main source of livelihood, added Representative Patricio Antonio (Agbiag party-list).

“They could probably shift to a low price brand or just go back to the traditional rolling of cigarette which has been a practice in many parts of the country,” said Antonio, adding that the increase in taxes will not ensure that Filipino smokers will quit smoking.

Representative Jeci Lapus (third district, Tarlac) also echoed the same sentiment that making cigarettes expensive will not discourage people from smoking.

“To discourage smoking, advocates should present the result of studies on the ill effects of smoking on the environment and health,” Lapus said.

Lapus further said the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue would be in a better position to state the tax rate on cigarettes if the government pushes through with the tax hike.

Earlier, the DOH said a 400 percent tax hike on cigarettes would bring up the price of a cigarette stick from P2 to P7, and a pack from P30 to P120.

The move would help reduce the number of smokers in the country, deter the youth who comprise 20 percent of the smoking population while allowing government to increase revenue to reduce the budget deficit, according to the health department.

Deputy Minority leader Danilo Suarez meanwhile earlier filed a House bill that would increase sin taxes, citing other countries like Hong Kong impose higher taxes on cigarettes. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)