By Ellen Tordesillas
Studies have shown that the ill-effects of smoking coupled with poor diet and lack of exercise are not limited to cardiovascular, respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer, which are afflicting Filipinos at their most productive age, 40's and early 50's.
In one of the lectures, Dr. Anthony Leachon, cardiologist and consultant on non-communicable diseases of the Department of Health, said recent studies have shown that smoking causes erectile dysfunction.
"You may not die of erectile dysfunction but some men die for it,"quipped Leachon, who is leading the campaign for the passage of the Sin Tax, not the Recto-fied version but the one that the authored by Sen. Miriam Santiago. He also supports the version passed by the House of Representatives authored by then Cavite Representative (now Secretary of Transportation and Communication) Joseph Abaya.
Would Senator Ralph Recto, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, and his pro-tobacco colleagues want a nation of men afflicted with erectile dysfunction? Unless they are in cahoots with manufacturers of Viagra, I don't think Recto has really considered the health aspects of the Sin Tax bill.
Recto justified his junking of the Santiago bill which would have given the government additional P60 billion in revenues and pushed for his own which would increase taxes on tobacco and alcoholic drinks by only P15 billion saying it's "economic equilibrium. "
I don't know what "economic equilibrium" is so I'm wondering how much did it cost the cigarette manufacturers.
What I know is that equilibrium denotes balance; a state or condition where different forces are balanced.
How could there be equilibrium in a piece of legislation that would deprive the Filipino people of some P45 billion for public hospitals and rural health units and other basic services that would improve their health.
How could there be equilibrium in a piece of legislation that would not discourage people from smoking because the price cigarettes and alcohol would still be affordable to the poor, who currently make up most of the consumers of those sin products.
Recto and his pro-tobacco are concerned about the burden of higher taxes on the manufacturers fearful that if they would stop manufacturing, there would be no taxes to collect.
Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner said the government collects P45 billion from tobacco taxes. Yet, the government spends P144 billion to treat cardiovascular, respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer, the four major ailments caused by smoking.
Proponents of the Sin Tax bill have underscored that it is primarily a health bill because it will raise taxes on the cigarettes and alcohol with the aim of making it unaffordable to the poor.
Henares makes a lot of sense when she said that if everybody stopped smoking, "then the government will be saving P144 billion."
Not only will the government be able to save P144 billion, but the country gains by having a healthy and productive citizenry.
Sin products manufacturers are being cynical when they justify their business with the argument that cigarettes and alcohol are the entertainment of the poor. Santiago is right: "The purpose of entertainment is relaxation and not death."
The rich, who comprise a minority in this country, have the choice to spend their money on useful things and activities and live a more productive and fulfilling life. But if they want to use their money to commit slow suicide, let them be.
Let them and those who oppose sensible Sin Tax suffer erectile dysfunction. That would be the ultimate equilibrium.