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Philippine gov't seen slapping stiff taxes on e-cigarettes

Publication Date : 25-06-2014

 

Quitting smoking may soon become more expensive in the Philippines as authorities are considering the imposition of higher taxes on the controversial electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

While the benefits of e-cigarettes over real ones are still being debated, Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said tax-wise, both might be considered the same thing.

“[The question is] whether we can already cover [e-cigarettes] with the present law because it’s just a different permutation of a cigarette. It’s still a cigarette,” she told reporters. “That’s one way to tackle it.”

The use of e-cigarettes is marketed as one way to help people quit smoking or as a less-unhealthy way to keep smoking. Health advocates, however, have pushed for the ban on the e-cigarettes, citing the health risks still involved despite the absence of actually having to light up.

The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) had claimed that e-cigarettes contained carcinogens, formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals, aside from nicotine, an addictive substance.

The PMA last year urged President Aquino to ban e-cigarette advertisements that suggested that e-cigarettes were safe ways of kicking the vice.

Henares noted that the BIR has yet to tackle the issue of e-cigarettes and how they should be taxed.

Meanwhile, the tax chief said health advocates might want to push for legislation that would put a floor price on cigarettes. This comes amid the recent practice of domestic manufacturers selling cigarettes at a loss as a way of gaining a foothold in the local market dominated by Philip Morris.

The proliferation of cheaper cigarette products came after the passage of new excise taxes that made the established brands more expensive.

“There’s no law that says you can’t sell at a loss. If the issue is the price, then tackle the price,” she said.

Putting a floor price on cigarettes would make them too expensive for large parts of the population, particularly the young and those from lower-income groups.


 

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