Press release – Action for Economic Reforms – 18 September 2012

As the Senate Ways and Means Committee hearings wind to a close, experts are now debunking the false statements of the tobacco industry.

In Tuesday’s media forum, UP professors Winnie Monsod from the School of Economics and Dr. Tony Dans from the College of Medicine, set the record straight on the multiple misleading messages from the tobacco industry.

Professor Monsod discussed common misconceptions from the economic perspective while Dr. Dans spoke on the health perspective.

Addressing the claim that a steep tax increase would intensify smuggling, Monsod stated, “There is no relationship between price and illicit trade.”

“Smuggling is an enforcement issue,” argued Monson. “If we use that same argument, then we should have no elections dahil nagdadayaan naman eh.”

Monsod also challenged the tobacco industry’s figures that were presented during the second Senate hearing. The industry claimed a number of 840,146 employed in tobacco farming with a total land area of 32,235 hectares. “If we divided the 840,000 with the 32,000 hectares, that means there are 26 farmers per hectare. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous to you?”

She also disputed the income of the farmers, saying, “If we assume the 85,000 annual income per hectare and divide it by 26, that means the average annual income is 3,269.23 pesos. How can anybody survive with 3,200 pesos a year?”

Furthermore, Monsod rejected the claims that the government would lose money due to the death of the industry, stating, “All the studies – without question – show that because of the inelasticity of demand that when you raise the price, total revenue will go up because there are addicted consumers. It’s as simple as that.”

She clarified, “Revenues are going to increase. In no country in the world with even greater excise tax has there been revenue decrease.”

“I’m disturbed by the irresponsible statements that were made and nobody ever demanded a simulation or study on how it occurred,” continued Monsod.

On the other hand, Dr. Dans also clarified common fallacies regarding health, emphasizing that smoking greatly increases the risk of 50 diseases, including cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

He also debunked the claim that lifestyle is a choice saying, “People say that because it’s a choice, we should just educate them on the health risks. However, counseling or education does not affect life longevity, prevent heart disease and stroke and most importantly, does not lower smoking rates. We have to change the environment. It’s no longer a choice.”

“It’s the tobacco companies against all of us,” contended Dans. “What about the majority of us who suffer and die from the ill effects of their product? Are you going to contest the lives of millions who will benefit from this bill’s passage?”

Both UP professors also challenged legislators to take a clear and firm stand on the issue and pointing out previous legislations that favored the tobacco industry in the past.

Monsod declared: “They won in 1997. They won in 2004. Can they not let the Filipino people win in 2012?”