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HB 5013 backers grow

  • Written by Peoples Journal
  • Published in Editorial Desk

Be worried, be very worried.
   
The Grim Reaper is swinging his deadly scythe as the statistics on the state of health of Filipinos are getting grimmer.
   
Tell us if this scenario is not scary enough: For every 1,000 of Filipinos, about five would die every year. At a population of about 102,000,000 that means roughly 510,000 deaths annually. That is close to about 1,400 people dying every single day. Of those daily deaths, about 840 are due to non-communicable diseases, also known as “lifestyle diseases.”
   
Dr. Anthony C. Leachon, president and spokesman of the Philippine College of Physicians, noted that roughly 35 people are dying of NCDs every hour, but stressed that the more worrisome aspect of this situation is that  35 percent to 50 percent of NCD deaths in the country occur before the age of 60. That translates into a weak and sickly labor force.
   
“Not only would the country suffer outright from the loss of its human capital, one must also account the loss of productivity, the expenses secondary to medication, the loss of jobs due to disabilities, and the loss of income due to premature deaths of the bread winners of the family,” he added.
   
A Harvard study revealed four major modifiable risk factors  — “characteristics that societies or individuals can change to improve health outcomes” for NCDs are: 1) poor diet; 2) physical inactivity; 3) tobacco use; and, 4) harm.
   
Leachon said it is a credit to the Aquino administration that it was able to increase tax on alcohol and tobacco products (Republic Act 10351) despite heavy opposition from powerful lobby groups.
   
He also cited efforts by lawmakers to create a healthy lifestyle environment.
   
For instance, Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali of Mindoro Oriental’s 2nd District, has expressed his support over House Bill 5013 to strengthen the country’s anti-youth smoking advocacy.
   
The measure, filed by Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus F. Madrona, proposes a minimum cigarette price per pack  to decisively deny youth access to cigarettes and support the health advocacy of the excise tax reform law.
   
Last July, a survey jointly conducted by the Department of Health and Social Weather Stations published a reduction from 35 percent in December 2012 down to 18 percent in March 2014 among smokers in the 18 to 24 year-old age bracket.
   
“That 17-percent decrease in youth smoking prevalence was already a good development for the existing sin-tax laws and this proposed measure will help pick up that momentum,” Umalil noted.
   
HB 5013 sets a minimum cigarette price of P38 beginning January 2015, P44 by 2016 and P51 by 2017 and be annually raised by four percent come January 2018, consistent with the increase of excise taxes.
   
The bill offers to level the playing field to all cigarette manufacturers by imposing minimum cigarette price thus preventing price war among the cigarette manufacturers.
   
For any business establishment that commits a violation, both penalties shall apply in addition to the suspension or revocation of business licenses or permits.
   
Umali noted that under Section 22 of Republic Act 9211 which bans tobacco advertising in TV, print, and radio, the proposed MCP would help keep tobacco companies and their sales channels farther from youth.
   
The bill is based on Sections 13 and 15, Article 2 of the 1987 Constitution which respectively states that: “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being” and “The state shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.”