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'Recto sacrifices 60,000 lives to protect tobacco companies' - UP health expert
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – A University of the Philippine medical expert on Friday said the version of the Sin Tax Bill being pushed by Senator Ralph Recto would compromise 60,000 lives while protecting the interests of tobacco companies.

Dr. Antonio Dans, professor at the UP-College of Medicine said in an interview that Recto "considers revenues, he considers smuggling, but he totally forgets about 60,000 lives that we are losing from watering down the Santiago bill."

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago's version of the Sin Tax Bill espouses a single tier excise tax scheme for cigarettes. The version reported out by Recto's Ways and Means Committee pushes a multi-tier scheme.

Dans, echoing the criticisms of anti-tobacco advocacy groups, said that "in a multi-tier system, you destroy the health side, because instead of asking people to stop smoking, they will simply shift to a cheaper brand. That's not we want." 

Dans said that as many as 60,000 lives a year will remain at risk for tobacco-related diseases and deaths if Recto's version wins out in Congress.

"We showed them the calculation, we showed them the fact, but nothing has been deliberated," Dans said. "Ganoon na lamang ba that we will ignore 60,000 lives?" 

Dans explained that raising the average excise tax by 265 percent will lead to smoking rates going down from 31% to 26%. "That drop from 31% to 26% represents more than two million people stopping smoking. If you stop smoking, you will avoid death from 49 diseases that can kill you from smoking like lung cancer, coronary diseases, stroke, heart attack, chronic pulmonary diseases."

Dans says that about 30% of the people who stop smoking will avoid smoking related deaths in the year after they stop smoking. Distributing the 30% over ten years, Dans said, "means every year you save the life of 3% of the people who stop smoking. If you have 100 people stop smoking every year, 3 of them will avoid death."

"So, isipin mo (Think about it)," he said: "Two million people will stop smoking, 3 percent of that is 60,000 lives a year that will be saved by the Santiago version. But under the Recto bill, you will only save 10,000 lives a year."

"So, Recto has given up 60,000 lives a year. You will protect the tobacco industry over 60,000 lives. It was not contested when we presented it in the Senate," Dans said. "I showed them the facts, I showed them the calculations, no one contested that these will take lives, but it wasn’t in the deliberation, it was not in (Recto's) report."