Issue of June 2, 2019
Mt. Province

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Groups ask senators to pass bill on tobacco tax increase
by PNA release

Pediatricians and health advocates urged senators to protect the health of the Filipino youth by passing the bill on the tobacco tax hike.

Dr. Riz Gonzalez, chair of the Philippine Pediatric Society-Tobacco Control Advocacy Group, said studies have proven that the most effective way to improve lung health among children and young adults is to reduce tobacco use and their exposure to second-hand smoke.

“With nearly 700 million, or almost half of the world’s children breathing air polluted by second-hand smoke, children have a higher risk of serious health problems. Tobacco control must be a continuing and urgent priority for governments and communities worldwide,” Gonzalez said in her speech at an info-art exhibit in line with the celebration of World No Tobacco Day.

He said that more than a supplemental source of Universal Health Care fund, an increase in tobacco tax is an anti-cancer measure designed to reduce tobacco-related deaths and diseases.

Health Justice Philippines president Mary Ann Mendoza said tobacco use among the Filipino youth is rapidly increasing, with about 12 percent of youths aged 13 years to 15 years smoking in 2015, up from nine percent in 2009.

“This means more tobacco-related deaths and diseases in the future,” she said.

Marjon Fenis, a member of Millenials PH, a youth organization attending the event, appealed to the senators to pass the tobacco tax to make cigarettes beyond the youth’s reach.

“Cigarette users are becoming younger because it is becoming more affordable,” Fenis said.

Mendoza said President Rodrigo R. Duterte has twice certified the tobacco tax increase as a priority legislation, noting that the hike in tobacco tax must be passed by the current Congress.

Otherwise, its supporters would need to start over with their efforts in the next Congress, Fenis said.

“The Department of Finance and the Department of Health who are government experts in tobacco taxation, have already thrown their support. We find it odd that discussion is now reverting to efficacy of DOH to absorb funds and certain provisions of the Universal Health Care Act, which have been discussed before during the deliberations of the said law,” she said.

Health Justice Philippines, together with the Sin Tax Coalition, held a one-day exhibit at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City to raise awareness about the harmful effects of tobacco and lung health.

Health Justice PH is an advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and public health promotion.

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