Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga / Reporter
After the passage of the “sin” tax law, the snowballing move to impose higher tax on junk foods or “unhealthy food products” is triggering spirited debates among so-called netizens in social-networking sites.
“Having students express support to the idea of higher taxes on unhealthy products proves that we are on the right track. The younger generation is beginning to see that it is truly the government’s duty to implement preventive measures that go directly to the core of society’s lifestyle. Development and implementation of effective policies to address risk factors help in the reduction of non-communicable diseases,” Irene Reyes, managing director of HealthJustice Philippines, said in a statement.
The group said imposing higher tax on junk foods and sugar-rich drinks have been done in other countries such as Hungary, France and Peru to discourage consumption of food and drinks that are high in sugar, fat or sodium.
The sin-tax law, which imposes higher taxes on cigarettes and liquors, triggered spirited debate among lawmakers before it was enacted last year. The law was meant to be a revenue measure but health advocates said there is more to the law than simply raising revenue, which is to discourage unhealthy lifestyles.
Proponents of the sin-tax law argued that raising the taxes imposed on sin products will discourage Filipinos to patronize the products that are not only addictive, but pose serious health risks to men, women and children.
With the enactment of the sin-tax law, health advocates are set to press the next Congress the passage of a similar law that will prevent too much consumption of unhealthy food products or the so-called junk foods.
In the US, health officials are considering the introduction of the “junk food tax” to address the rising obesity levels of Americans. In a study published by the British Medical Journal, a 20-percent increase in taxes of sugary drinks in North America can reduce obesity levels by 3.5 percent among adults, it was learned.
In the Philippines, youth debaters took to Facebook the issue over a motion on unhealthy food taxation raised by the organizers of the Philippine Inter-Collegiate Debating Championship (PIDC) held at the University of the Philippines Diliman campus from April 8 to 13.
PIDC organizers raised the controversial question, “Following the passage of the sin-tax law, should the government impose a tax on junk foods and sweetened drinks?”
The question was immediately met with clashing opinions.
The idea of the government using legislation to control social behavior was countered by the idea that it is the government’s constitutional mandate to ensure public health in all sectors. Those who supported higher taxation on junk food emphasized that these products were manufactured to be addictive while providing minimal health benefits.
It is the government’s duty to provide disease preventive interventions such as policies that benefit public health, the health advocates argued.
In the Philippines, only 16.6 percent of Filipino adults were considered overweight in 1993. Today, the percentage has significantly increased to 26.6 percent, while 5.2 percent of those are classified as medically obese.