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July 24th, 2015:

10 Most Expensive Countries to Buy Cigarettes in the World

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Cancer victims’ group blasts AmCham’s ‘meddling’ in PH legislation

MANILA, Philippines — A cancer victims’ group lashed out Friday at what it called the US Chamber of Commerce’s attempts on behalf of the American tobacco industry to influence legislation in the country.

Emer Rojas, president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines, said the newly-released report, “US Chamber of Commerce, Blowing Smoke for Big Tobacco,” published by a consortium of anti-tobacco groups, “confirms what we in the health community have been seeing for years — how big tobacco uses multi-pronged approaches to lobby its interests to the point of undermining government’s independence to chart their own affairs.”

The report documents how AmCham affiliates in the Philippines, Uruguay, Burkina Faso, Moldova and the European Union have lobbied to oppose health measures specifically tobacco taxes, graphic health warnings, and standardized packaging.

In the Philippines, the report said, the business group “aggressively fought an effort by legislators to reduce tobacco consumption by raising taxes on cigarettes,” albeit unsuccessfully.

Among others, the AmCham argued that raising tobacco taxes would undermine revenue growth targets and pose threats to national security by triggering a flood of smuggling, claims the report said “mirrored those made directly by tobacco companies.”

“None of those threats had happened. Today revenues from the sin tax fund universal health care for poor Filipinos and increased the health budget at a level we’ve never seen before,” Rojas said.

Despite this, Rojas said “the tobacco industry’s influence in Philippine politics is so strong that while government had passed three national tobacco control laws they were not without some form of compromise to please the industry.”

“Republic Act 9211 or the tobacco regulation law allowed the industry to sit in the interagency committee that monitors compliance of the law. We lobbied Congress for unitary tax for cigarettes but this won’t happen until 2017. We proposed bigger graphic health warnings and shorter compliance period but legislators settled for 50 percent coverage and gave the industry almost two years to comply. We would have better versions of these laws but unfortunately some compromise had to be reached,” he said.

10 Most Expensive Countries to Buy Cigarettes in the World

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