Health group alarmed as cigs and alcoholic drinks remain accessible

HealthJustice Philippines, a public health think tank with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, expressed alarm over the inclusion of tobacco consumption in the hypothetical monthly budget of the typical Filipino family used by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in assessing the effects of an inflation rate of 4.6 per cent on Filipino families.

A press briefing on the NEDA report was held last June 5. In an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, a program of GMA Network, NEDA Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon clarified that the P10,000 monthly budget was only a “hypothetical figure” that shows how a family with five members may allocate the money. 

NEDA has been getting flak for allegedly claiming that P10,000 is enough to sustain the needs of a family of five.

“Ang sinasabi namin kung P10,000 ang budget mo paano kaya ito ina-apportion to certain commodity items […]  Wala kaming sinasabi na ‘yun ‘yung disente na kailangan,” Edillon said.

“Although it has been clarified by NEDA that it is not recommending the consumption of  alcohol and tobacco products, what is at once apparent in the fact that such hypothetical figure has been arrived at is that some families may still be inclined to devote a considerable amount of money for cigarettes and alcoholic drinks, instead of allocating it for food, education, shelter, and other basic necessities,” said Mary Ann Fernandez Mendoza, President of HealthJustice.

According to NEDA’s illustration of the family budget allocation, P93 may be spent on tobacco products while P65 may be spent on alcoholic beverages.

“The figures used by NEDA, namely P93 for cigarettes and P65 for alcoholic drinks, pinpoint to an observation by the country’s economic development authority that even the poorest of families can still afford to spend on vices,” Fernandez Mendoza pointed out.

HealthJustice has been vocal about its support for the increase of taxes on tobacco and alcohol for the protection of public health.

“We reiterate our call for the increase of excise taxes on tobacco products and alcoholic drinks. These taxes are primarily health measures aimed at discouraging consumption of unhealthy products by making such products more expensive and thereby less accessible. We call on our legislators to increase excise taxes on tobacco products and alcoholic beverages to protect the health of Filipino families,” Fernandez Mendoza asserted.

240 Filipinos die every day due to smoking-related diseases.

According to a July 2014 report by Euromonitor, Filipinos are the third heaviest drinkers in the world. 

HealthJustice Philippines is Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a member of the NCD Alliance, an international network of experts, advocates and organizations working to decrease the burden of non-communicable diseases worldwide.

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