Smokers react to graphic warnings, new tax effects  

MARAMAG, Bukidnon (BukidnonNews.Net/17 January 2018) It was about evening, Larry Yamit, 52, lighted a stick of cigarette outside the neighbourhood sari-sari store. He puffed and blew white smoke clouding his space at the corner.

Taxes on traditional cigarettes may be driving smokers to try vaping.

A $1 tax increase on traditional cigarettes reduces cigarette use by 1.9% overall and by 3.5% for daily smokers, says a new study distributed by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). It also increased vaping rates by 9.7%.

The study determined these results by cross-referencing dates of state cigarette excise tax changes with data from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys and National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS) between 2011 and 2017.

The BRFSS polls more than 400,000 U.S. adults each year, and the NHIS surveys about 33,000. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention oversees both of these surveys.E-cigarettes aren’t subject to traditional state and federal cigarette excise taxes because their use doesn’t lead to the inhalation of tar.

These results suggest some smokers are making the switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes as taxes on traditional cigarettes rise. “We provide the first evidence on the effects of traditional cigarette taxes on traditional cigarette use and e-cigarette use in a time period when e-cigarettes were widely available in tobacco markets,” the researchers wrote in the study paper.

A widower, Larry said he saw the graphic signs printed on cigarette packs. One image showed a swollen neck due to cancer. Another image showed a swollen mouth with dark spots on the teeth.

The government has implemented Republic Act 10643 or the Graphic Health Warnings Law to help control smoking. According to the 2015 results of the Philippines’ Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GASTS) by the Philippine Statistic Authority released in March 2017, there are 15.9 million adult Filipino smokers aging 15 and above.

The law has mandated tobacco companies to carry a graphic health warning in their packs.

Unfortunately, Larry and other smokers are unfazed.

“The pictures do not scare me. I smoke despite the graphic warning. It has become a habit for me,” he said in the vernacular.

He said he is aware of the health hazards since he started smoking when he was second year high school. But he finds it hard to get rid of the habit already, he still try to keep his health in every other aspect, like his fitness status, so he train everyday and keep a good diet from sites as that have a lot of information about health and nutrition.

Larry said he does not feel any of the diseases featured in the graphic warnings.

Like Larry, “Paulo,” 22, a part-time private tutor from South Poblacion, Maramag said graphic warning signs do not stop him from his smoking habit with his favorite gravity bong.

However, “E.F,” 18, a student based in Everlasting Village, Pangantucan town said the photos are gross that he lost appetite for smoking. He said he cut his daily consumption from 10 to maximum of three a day after he saw the warnings.

Lynlyn Dalisay, who hails from Silang, Cavite, now based in Maramag town said smokers who avoid the warnings prefer an imported brand of cigarettes packed without the graphic warning.

“Those packaging are not intended to cause confusion or create gross emotion from you. Rather, it helps you to be aware what hazards does smoking bring to your health,” said nurse April Nicole A. Ubaldo, recently affiliated with Department of Health’s nurse deployment project.

Grace S. Lingcasan, head coordinator of tobacco control program of the Malaybalay City Health Office said smokers find it hard to get rid of their habit because nicotine is addictive.

She added that every stick contains more than 7,000 chemicals, with 66 identified to cause cancer and 60 chemicals are poisonous. These chemicals, she said, are the reasons why smoking leads to tuberculosis, different kinds of cancer, psoriasis and hypertension.

She said the symptoms do not surface right away, adding people only pay attention when they are already afflicted with the diseases.

Lingcasan said if the graphic warnings do not work, the more effective method could be to let the smokers see in person the actual effect of smoking.

She added that curtailing distribution and manufacturing of tobacco products could also be a solution to this. She said this is one reason why the government has imposed sin taxes and other tax measures like the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law or Republic Act No 10963.

A farm worker, Larry said the higher price of cigarette is a heavier burden but since he is addicted he is forced to work harder to support his smoking habit.

But he said he doesn’t want his children to get addicted to smoking “if they can avoid, I have asked them not to be like me”.

Lingcasan said she hoped that people who were not restrained by the graphic warnings and the increase in price could visit them in the health center to seek professional help. (Contributed by Efraem O. Egoc/Development Communication intern/Bukidnon State University)