MANILA, Philippines – Apparently, cigarette smoking is not only considered a health risk, but a weapon of mass destruction.
In a briefing on August 14, Northeastern University School of Law Professor Richard A. Daynard said Marlboro cigarettes are “the most harmful weapons of mass destruction” today given the number of tobacco-related deaths that have been recorded globally.
Daynard said tobacco now causes at least 160,000 deaths in the United States alone and 500 million deaths globally every year.
“Marlboro is the deadliest consumer product known to man and Philip Morris is the marketer of the deadliest product known to man,” Daynard said.
Smoking in the Philippines
In his presentation, Anthony C. Leachon, a cardiologist and consultant of the Department of Health, said more Filipinos die of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or lifestyle diseases, as they are more commonly termed, today than dengue, communicable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria or street or organized crime.
Leachon said that smoking is now the top killer of Filipinos and account for as much as 50,000 deaths every year. He said that 7 out of the top 10 diseases that kill Filipinos are caused by smoking.
The 7 diseases are diseases of the heart, diseases of the vascular system, cancer, pneumonia, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, and diseases of the respiratory system. Only accidents, diabetis milletus, and kidney diseases are not linked to smoking.
“(NCDs are) now an epidemic, a silent disaster,” Leachon said. “[The problem with smoking is] people will only stop if they are on the verge of dying because this is an addiction.”
Of sin taxes and bribes
Daynard said that in the United States, a 10% increase in cigarette prices has the ability to cut adult consumption by 10% and teenage consumption by 20%.
In the Philippines, if this trend will hold true, it will represent a significant reduction in teenage smokers. Daynard said there is a high prevalence of teenage smokers in the country compared to other countries.
Daynard said sin taxes can reduce their future profits and number of consumers. He said this is the reason why tobacco companies like Philip Morris are doing everything, including those bordering on the illegal, to fight the imposition of sin taxes.
“I know there certainly are documents involving the tobacco industry bribing government officials in various places, but whether Philip Morris specifically, was involved directly or indirectly involved as part of the broader tobacco industry group that was doing this, I’m not sure,” Daynard said.
Impact on farmers, informal sector workers
The tobacco industry has repeated time and again how the sin tax will impact the lives of farmers and even informal sector workers. However, Daynard said that the imposition of sin taxes will not obliterate the industry and will only give way for farmers and informal workers to diversify their crops or products they sell.
Cielo Magno of the Action for Economic Reform (AER) said that a study from the Department of Science and Technology showed that tobacco farmers can easily shift to planting high value crops like Saluyot in tobacco areas since it is in demand in China and other Southeast Asian countries.
Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance of the Philippines (FCAP) Executive Director Dr. Maricar Limpin added that in Northern Philippines, Senator Bongbong Marcos helped tobacco farmers shift to tomato farming.
Limpin said the only thing that the tobacco farmers are asking for is support from the government to be able to shift to other crops. – Rappler.com