Tax meat too, sin tax panel toldBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The government should also tax meat and other high-fat food if it wants to shield the public, especially the poor, from unhealthy things, a union leader for a tobacco company told the Senate committee on ways and means during a hearing on increasing “sin” taxes last week.
Expressing the fear that a decreased demand for cigarettes and other sin products like alcohol due to higher prices would leave them out of work, Philip Morris-Fortune Tobacco Corp. union president Rodelito Atienza said cigarettes were being unfairly singled out among the many possible causes of disease.
“But let us not put all the blame on cigarettes. Because as mentioned earlier, a huge percentage [of diseases] is also caused by vehicle exhaust (and) foods that are high in cholesterol. I wish they would also impose high taxes on these,” Atienza told the Senate panel.
Atienza said that while the proposed sin tax would provide for assistance to tobacco farmers, no such aid for cigarette workers was included.
The sin tax measure is expected to generate an additional P60 billion for the government.
The opponents of the sin tax were responding to arguments of health advocates about the negative effects of smoking on one’s health.
Emerito Rojas, an engineer, spoke to the senators through an electrolarynx, saying his vocal cords had been removed due to cancer.
“This was caused by smoking,” Rojas said. As a “global cancer ambassador” designated by the American Cancer Society, Rojas said he represented “the voice of the victims of tobacco here in the Philippines as well as around the world.”
He cited statistics showing that 10 persons die per hour, or 87,600 per year, due to smoking-related diseases in the country.
Dr. Antonio Dans, a doctor at the Philippine General Hospital, said studies showed that cigarette smoking was more prevalent among the poor than among the wealthy.
He said this could be one reason why the death rate in poor countries was almost twice the death rate in the rich countries in the region, like Brunei and Singapore.”
Sen. Ralph Recto, chair of the Senate committee on ways and means, said the sin tax measure aims to raise revenues while at the same time reduce the number of smokers and alcohol drinkers in the country.
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