We are a coalition of medical societies, youth groups, and civil society organizations pushing for the passage of higher excise taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco products. 

On December 12, 2012, a game-changing reform, the Sin Tax Reform Law of 2012 (RA 10351), ushered in an unprecedented expansion of fiscal space for public health. This year marks the tenth anniversary of that victory, which was hard-earned by a broad, intersectoral, and multi-partisan coalition.

The 2012 sin tax reform significantly raised excise taxes on tobacco products and overhauled our tobacco tax regime. It was the beginning of a decade of tobacco tax hikes which succeeded again in 2017 through the TRAIN Law, 2019 through RA 11346, and 2020 through RA 11467. Thanks to the sin tax reforms, the Philippines is now considered a global best practice site for its tobacco tax policy. In 2020, Tobacconomics’ “Cigarette Tax Scorecard” ranked the Philippines as seventh in total performance in cigarette tax policy, the highest among all East Asian countries. 

The fruits of the sin tax reforms are now here for us to witness. Evidence shows that the sin tax law has successfully discouraged smoking among Filipinos. The results of the 2021 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) showed that current tobacco smoking prevalence significantly decreased, from 22.7% in 2015 to 18.5% in 2021. In 2009, before the passage of RA 10351, smoking prevalence was at 28.2%. The GATS also showed that cigarette prices rose in the same time frame. The average cost of a pack of 20 manufactured cigarettes increased from PhP 29.60 in 2009 to PhP 57.70 in 2015, and to PhP 107.80 in 2021. 

Sin taxes have raised funds for our health budget and facilitated the enrollment of indigent Filipinos in our National Health Insurance Program. Earmarked revenues from sin taxes made up 54% of the 2020 budget for DOH-OSEC/PhilHealth.

However, ten years later, despite all the gains from sin taxes, we face many new challenges in relation to health and the economy. We face a large fiscal deficit. The increase in spending and borrowing during the pandemic have narrowed our fiscal space. We still have yet to implement Universal Health Care across the nation, as our funding gap is at least PhP163 billion, according to the DOH’s Medium Term Expenditure Program (MTEP). 

The rising trend in the use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) among the youth and the passage of RA 11900, which deregulates these products, is also very alarming.

Our call is for the Executive to adopt sin taxes as a legislative priority, as it is incumbent on them to protect the health of our people, especially young Filipinos, from harmful products such as tobacco. We laud Rep. Joey Salceda for filing House Bill 5532, which raises taxes on e-cigarettes and HTPs and introduces new taxes on vaping devices, and we call on our leaders in Congress to support this measure. 

The evidence shows that sin taxes are an efficient, cost-effective policy which deters smoking and relieves our health system of the burden of tobacco-related diseases. As we transition to a new normal, 

sin taxes will also provide us the resources to rebuild and strengthen our healthcare system and recover from this monumental health and economic crisis. 

Signatories:

Action for Economic Reforms

Youth for Sin Tax Movement

Philippine Pediatric Society

Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance

Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development

Social Watch Philippines

Aktibong Kilusan Tungo sa Iisang Bayan

Health Justice Philippines

Action on Smoking and Health Philippines