Rep. Reynaldo Umali of Mindoro Oriental said the number of youth smokers can be further reduced if a minimum cigarette price is imposed.
He noted that the number of smokers aged 18 to 24 fell because of the Sin Tax Law, which raised the prices of alcohol and tobacco. This year, the price of cigarettes is pegged at P15 per pack, and P18 effective in 2015.
“That 17 percent decrease in youth smoking prevalence was already a good development for the existing Sin Tax Law and this measure will help pick up that momentum,” Umali said on Tuesday.
He was referring to a bill filed by Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona of Romblon that sets a Minimum Cigarette Price (MCP) per pack to deny the youth access to cigarettes in line with the health advocacy of the excise tax reform law.
According to a survey jointly conducted by the Department of Health (DOH) and Social Weather Stations (SWS), smokers from the youth bracket decreased from 35 percent in December 2012 to 18 percent in March 2014.
The SWS survey on the “Usage, Attitudes and Behavior of Filipinos Toward Smoking” in the first quarter of 2014 said the decrease in smoking prevalence is “evident” among the poor and the younger age group.
Fifty-five percent believe that the increase in cigarette prices in 2013 helps in decreasing the number of people who smoke, while 69 percent agree that the increase in the prices of cigarettes will not be effective if the number of people who smoke will not decrease.
It noted that majority of Filipinos agree that the current prices of cigarettes should be further increased (66 percent).
According to SWS, smokers usually spend about P20 daily for cigarettes.
Madrona’s bill sets an MCP of P38 starting January 2015 that will increase to P44 by 2016 and P51 by 2017.
“We need to take care of our country’s youth because they are our future leaders,” Umali said.