I remember the time when I was still known in school as Ben Siga. The nick might sound menacing, but it actually stands for “Vendor of Cigarettes”. I sold Red, Gold and Green Marlboro cigarettes during my senior year in college. What started as a social experiment turned into a nice sideline business for several months.
Years later after graduation, I found out that smoking is no longer allowed inside my Alma Mater. If a student wished to smoke, he went outside. Apparently, the school administration decided to join in the campaign against smoking. (The school president by the way is a smoker himself. The irony!)
I do agree with the school policy. What benefits does smoking give anyway? Aside from the “euphoric” feeling that relieves stress and relaxes the mind, what else? Countless studies conducted attribute so many respiratory diseases to smoking, both for smokers and non-smokers. Smoking also causes several types of cancers. Proof of this is my aunt, who died of cancer of the larynx from 2nd hand smoke from my uncle smoking, even inside their air-conditioned bedroom. Finally, smoking causes bad breath. There’s a high ranking official from the Department of Health who jokingly claimed that ever since he stopped smoking, women fancied him more because he could talk to them closer, having gotten rid of his bad breath.
Now if smoking really does no good, should the much talked about Sin Tax bill then be approved? Should the Senate heed the call of no less than President P-Noy himself, to approve this piece of legislation? Do we need a new excise tax on cigarettes?
(Yet another irony, because P-Noy himself is a smoker and admits he can’t quit.)
By the Parens Patriae doctrine, the State is the ultimate caretaker and guardian of the people. It won’t suffer from any respiratory disease or cancer, but its people will. The suffering of the masses is also a suffering of the State. Therefore, the State through its government, should address the many problems caused by smoking.
The Sin Tax has two main goals – as a revenue raising measure and as a form of restriction. It will raise much needed funds for the government. As the same time, it will impose a bigger burden on those who wish to continue smoking. As a health hazard and a cause of air pollution, smoking is being moved to be out rightly banned. However, the right to smoke and puff a cigarette falls under the right of people to “enjoy life”. They cannot restrict it. But with the Sin Tax, hopefully they can discourage it.
Interestingly, data shows that cigarettes are cheaper in the Philippines compared to highly developed countries like the US and the UK. Many foreigners request friends and relatives to bring them cigarettes brands available here because the price here is very much lower. That’s right folks, the cigarette puffed by istambays in our plazas is also the same cigarette sold in Las Vegas hotels and casinos. But in Las Vegas, an istambay can’t afford a single stick.
If we drive prices up, less people would be able to afford cigarettes. These people whom the Sin Tax is aiming for are smokers who would line up in our hospitals in the future, suffering from respiratory diseases as a result of smoking. If they can’t afford cigarettes, they will have to quit smoking.
Being a tax measure, the Sin Tax bill will raise funds for the government. As to how much can be raised was the subject of much discussion among the members of the Senate and executive officials from the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Finance, DOH and also Malacañang. P-Noy wants P60 billion. But Ways and Means committee chairman Ralph Recto strongly believes that the Sin Tax is only feasible for up to P15 billion. Seems that they met halfway, putting the revenue target at P40 billion. Either way, those funds would greatly benefit all of us.
As the deliberation on the Sin Tax bill continues, smokers might uneasily clasp at their beloved cigarette butts. If the Sin Tax bill becomes a law, the price for a single cigarette stick might skyrocket three to four times, maybe more. Are you willing to pay that much for your right to smoke?