Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) – July 27, 2019 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) and anti-tobacco groups yesterday welcomed the signing by President Duterte of the Sin Tax law, as they called for the immediate formulation of the measure’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

According to DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, they are happy that Republic Act 11346 is now enacted because it will not only reduce the number of smokers in the country but it will also generate funds for universal health care.

“This landmark law means that there will be sustained funding to achieve the intentions of the Universal Health Care law,” noted Duque as he underscored that the revenues from this law will also upgrade medical facilities, train doctors and nurses, scale up non-communicable disease prevention services, among others.

Duque added that having “higher taxes on cigarettes will mean that more people will be discouraged from taking up the smoking habit, more people will be spared from smoking-related diseases and government’s spending for these diseases will be lessened, ultimately giving us more room to focus on our health promotion efforts.”

DOH Undersecretary and Food and Drug Administration OIC-Director Eric Domingo said the law provides that the DOH shall be in charge of the health aspects of the measure while the Department of Finance will be responsible for its tax portions.

Domingo added that they are given 30 days to come up with an IRR which shall take effect in January next year.

Under the new law, the excise tax on cigarettes will be P45 per pack. In 2021, the excise tax shall increase to P50 per pack, P55 in 2022 and P60 in 2023.

The new tax rates also apply to vapor products like electronic cigarettes.

This development was also welcomed by the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) and Sin Tax Coalition, claiming it shows Duterte’s commitment to “protect and promote health, especially on the single most important risk factor – tobacco.”

“We would like to see provisions that will highlight protection of the government bureauracy from interference of the tobacco and vaping industry,” said FCAP executive director Maricar Limpin.

For Anthony Leachon, co-convenor of the coalition, the new measure will lead to a decrease in the country’s smoking prevalence.

Citing the 2018 National Nutrition Survey, he claimed the adult smoking prevalence in the country stands at 20.7 percent.

“This latest round of increases in tobacco taxes should ensure that the total number of smokers in the country does not increase and that we potentially achieve the Department of Health’s target smoking prevalence of 15 percent,” Leachon added.

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