HealthJustice Philippines, a think tank and advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, called on President Rodrigo Duterte and members of his Cabinet to discuss the need to further increase tobacco tax in the upcoming Cabinet meeting this May.
“The President has always been vocal about his strong desire to protect families and children from the harms of tobacco. He was able to strongly enforce the smoke-free ordinance of Davao City when he was still its mayor, gaining admiration from different parts of the globe. Under his leadership, Davao City was identified by no less than the World Health Organization as a model city in implementing smoke-free policies. We now call on President Duterte and his cabinet members to take further steps to make the Philippines truly tobacco-free by actively pushing for the increase of tobacco tax, a health measure known to effectively minimize the consumption of tobacco products,” said Mary Ann Fernandez Mendoza, President of HealthJustice.
Duterte and his Cabinet members are expected to discuss, among other matters, health reforms in the upcoming Cabinet meeting.
“Another tobacco tax increase will help fund the universal health care reforms being considered by the current administration,” Fernandez Mendoza pointed out.
Increasing tobacco tax has been described by the World Health Organization’s former Director General Margaret Chan as “one of the most effective – and cost-effective – ways to reduce consumption of products that kill, while also generating substantial revenue.”
Despite its well-publicized benefits, tobacco tax in the Philippines is still among the lowest in the world. The last increase in tobacco tax was effected during the passage of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which raised it by only Php 2.50 per pack.
“Tobacco tax is essentially a life-saving health measure. Increasing it significantly will discourage the youth and the poor from smoking. We urge our leaders in the executive branch of the government, especially President Duterte, Health Secretary Duque and Finance Secretary Dominguez, to do what is within their powers to advance tobacco tax increase and save at least one million lives by 2022,” Fernandez Mendoza stated.
In December 2017, Health Secretary Duque stated during a press conference that “we would want the (tobacco) tax to be higher, and we are already working on it.”
Last January, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III announced in his speech before the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) that the DoF “will help [Senators proposing tobacco tax increases]”.
240 people die every day in the Philippines due to smoking-related diseases.
HealthJustice Philippines is Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a member of the NCD Alliance, an international network of experts, advocates and organizations working to decrease the burden of non-communicable diseases worldwide.
Download press release here.