“We have 6 million less smokers today because of tobacco taxes. This is equivalent to about 60,000 deaths prevented in 2022 alone. That’s a lot of lives saved, more than I think the medical community could think of saving in our lifetime, but it’s something our legislators did just by signing a law – they saved lives.”
This was the statement of Dr. Antonio Dans, clinical epidemiologist from the UP College of Medicine, on behalf of the Sin Tax Coalition, at the anniversary of the Sin Tax Reform Law or Republic Act 10351, held from January 19-20, 2023, at the Edsa Shangri-la Manila.
The broad coalition of civil society reformers that worked together to legislate an unprecedented number of sin tax increases came together to celebrate the reforms’ gains.
December 2022 marked the tenth year since the signing of the landmark Sin Tax Reform Law, which was followed by a tobacco and alcohol tax increase in the TRAIN Law in 2017, another increase in taxes on tobacco and an introduction of taxes on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in 2019 through RA 11346, and an increase in taxes on alcohol, e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco products in 2020 through RA 11467.
Tobacco tax champions from the Aquino and Duterte administrations, including former Secretaries of Health Dr. Enrique Ona and Dr. Francisco Duque III, and former Secretaries of Finance Cesar Purisima and Carlos Dominguez, were recognized for their instrumental roles in the tax increases which successfully tripled the budget of the Department of Health since 2012 levels and played an integral role in the Philippines’ credit rating upgrade in 2013.
The World Health Organization commended the group for the reforms which lowered smoking prevalence rates from 30% in 2009, before the reform, to 19.5% in 2021. These statistics indicate that the reform successfully raised prices on cigarettes, prevented new smokers from initiating smoking habits, and made current smokers quit.
L-R: Dr. Antonio Dans, former Health Secretary Enrique Ona, former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, former Finance Undersecretary Jeremias Paul Jr., and Action for Economic Reforms Executive Director Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III
L-R: Former Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua, former Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, and former Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo
Sin Tax Coalition members with government champions and international partners from the World Health Organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids, and The Asia Foundation.
Senator Pia Cayetano, champion of the sin tax and Universal Health Care, with (R-L) Philippine Medical Association President Dr. Minerva Calimag, Philippine College of Physicians Immediate Past President Dr. Maricar Blanco-Limpin, and youth advocate Shaina Fernandez.