Cigarette prices in PH still among lowest despite sin tax, says report

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A vendor sells cigarettes at a supermarket in Quezon City. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Despite the passage of the sin tax law, the prices of cigarettes in the Philippines remain among the lowest in Southeast Asia, an antismoking group said yesterday.

Emer Rojas, president of New Vois Association of the Philippines, said the first edition of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Tobacco Atlas showed that the country continued to have one of the lowest prices of cigarette products in the region and even in the world.

“For example, local brand Fortune is pegged at 58 centavos and Marlboro at $1.16 a pack. But in Singapore, which is one of the Asean countries with good tobacco control policies, a pack of Marlboro is sold at $9,” said Rojas, a laryngeal cancer survivor.

He said the Philippines had been lagging behind her Asean neighbors in terms of tobacco control so that even with the sin tax law approved last year, the price increases were still not enough to catch up with her counterparts in the region.

“We were only able to achieve a tax burden of 53 percent of the retail price. This is still short of the recommended 70-percent tax burden of the World Health Organization (WHO),” Rojas said.

So far, only Singapore has complied with the WHO recommendation while Thailand’s tobacco tax rate is at 69 percent, he said.

Released by the Bangkok-based Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca), the Asean Tobacco Atlas is the first ever publication that details the tobacco epidemic in the 10-member association.

It contains information on smoking prevalence, prices, deaths, health burden and tobacco control policies, among other things.

Rojas said 10 percent of the world’s tobacco consumers, or 127 million adults, are found in the Asean region with the majority in Indonesia (65 million). The Philippines comes in second with 17.3 million smokers.

An estimated 9.25 billion cigarette sticks are consumed by Asean smokers on a daily basis, according to Seatca.

According to the Tobacco Atlas, Filipinos spend an estimated P326.4 million on cigarette products every month. Despite the huge expenditure on cigarettes, the government allots only P11.45 million to tobacco control.

Rojas said that aside from imposing higher taxes on cigarette products, the government should work on getting approval of the graphic health warning law to help curb the country’s tobacco epidemic.

“We know from the experience of our Asean neighbors like Singapore and Thailand that high tobacco prices and huge picture-based warning labels are effective measures in reducing consumption and discouraging the youth from taking up smoking,” he said.

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  • John Bardon

    Both Philip Morris and Fortune Tobacco (which joined under 1 company) controls about 89% of the Philippine market.
    This one giant conglomerate can afford to risk a lower margin even they control 89% of the market. Due to the consumption of cigarettes in the whole of the Philippines is at 1.1 Billion sticks per day.
    It used to be at 1.3 Billion stick/day during the early 2000s……

  • Vince Hiper

    Basta bisyo hindi magpapapigil ang mga Pilipino, nababawasan lang ang konsumo nila.

  • neilabarca

    ONE of the LOWEST Per CAPITA INCOME in SOUTH EAST ASIA is the PHILIPPINES.

    Hindi lang sa sigarilyo, maging sa VEHICLE, GASOLINE, SHOES, CLOTHINGs, APPLIANCES, ELECTRONIC GADGET and JEWELRY…is more cheaper in the Philippines compared to 5 ASEAN countries..

    Let’s have a MORATORIUM in raising taxes….

  • bgc

    Why wonder? The Senate (especially the bloc of Marcos and Enrile) made sure that the Sin Tax bill will be and indeed was a watered down version of its original form in the presence of Lucio Tan’s lawyers who were regular visitors in the Senate during the deliberations.

  • not_guilty_who

    higher price -> higher tax -> more billions -> fuller pockets!!!

  • farmerpo

    Prices are relative. The proper calculation of comparative prices is how much can one buy out of his/her take home pay. By this, prices in the Philippines are way past the ceiling of decent living. Of course, re cigarettes, one can die in style as one so desire. Imported cigarettes are cheaper by the way, in terms of potency and quality, that is. You die younger. Saves you a lot.

  • CharlieMurphy!

    Of course cigarettes in the Philippines is much cheaper compared to other countries. In the US for example, a pack of Marlboro costs $5.25. It’s the cost of living that separates the Philippines with other countries prices. If the Philippines were to charge the same amount ($5.25) then it would cost P232.52 per pack based on today’s FOREX, tobacco manufacturing in the Philippines will take a hit as sales will go down. Government’s revenue in sin taxation will take a hit. Soon, the tobacco manufacturing plant will lose money and will close down. People will lose jobs and more will rely on Government handouts. Smuggling of cigarettes will increase etc. It’s a domino effect. We’re not the only country in the world that smokes and drinks.

  • gringoloco

    When you try to compare prices of items in Philippines with other Countries, you also need to compare salaries.
    If you say cigarettes are very cheap here, so are the salaries.
    Better to say how long you need to work to buy a pack a cigarettes, 1 kilo rice, one kilo chicken, etc, etc.
    In Mindanao for example you need to work 20 days to pay your electric bill, 4 hours to buy one kilo of chicken, one hour to buy a kilo of rice.
    Cigarettes and liquors should be abolish in the Country.
    Stop, by law the sell of those products.
    Vanish them.
    But you know what?
    It will never happen, because the money issue.
    Everything is money, money, money.

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