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'Number of smoking-related deaths bloated'

MANILA, Philippines – An urban poor group opposing proposed higher taxes on cigarettes yesterday said that government statistics on the number of deaths caused by smoking were dubious and needs closer scrutiny.

Elvis Campos of the Mamamayan Kilos: Alab ng Maralita challenged health advocates and doctors’ groups to make a detailed report on the figures they have been presenting to media and in the congressional hearings on the sin tax bill.

Campos said that while they do not wish to dispute that cigarette smoking causes heart, pulmonary diseases and cancer, the figures being given to Congress and the media are unbelievable.

“Unless supported by verifiable data, the figures being given by the Department of Health (DOH), the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) and doctors’ groups are either overly bloated or maliciously distorted to influence Congress into approving the sin tax bill,” he said.

Campos urged lawmakers, particularly senators to demand the production of verifiable data and figures, with periodic breakdown, which would support their claim, including data from the provinces or regions where these alleged smoking-related deaths occurred.

He said these groups, especially the DOH, should also be required to submit the breakdown of the healthcare costs per province or region due to smoking-related illnesses.

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He said Congress seems to accept these figures from anti-smoking and health advocates without verifying the data.

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