Anti-smoking drive aims to boost 'sin tax' revenue

The Finance and Health departments have revived the iconic “Yosi Kadiri” campaign to help generate greater public support for the bill increasing the sin taxes on tobacco products.

The new “Yosi Kadiri” ad features the People’s Champ, Senator Manny Pacquiao, with the campaign’s tagline “Hindi pa tapos ang laban.” 

Pacquiao, who is also known as the “Pambansang Kamao,” is shown in the new ad as a champion of the Filipino people’s health.

The Finance department said in a statement Thursday there were three pending bills in the Senate that were separately pushing for a further increase in the tobacco excise taxes from P60 to P90 per pack.

“With only three working weeks left for the 17th  Congress, the ad launch is part of a multi-stakeholder push to increase tobacco excise taxes to at least P60 per pack to safeguard public health and sustain funding for the Universal Health Care Law,” the department said.

Considered as one of the most successful health campaigns in the 1990s, Yosi Kadiri was first launched by the Health department under the late former Health secretary and Senator Juan Flavier. 

The iconic Yosi Kadiri mascot was introduced to depict the detrimental effects of cigarette smoking on the health of both smokers and non-smokers.

Apart from curbing smoking among Filipinos, especially the youth, any further increase in tobacco excise taxes aims to help sustain funding for the expanded UHC Law.

The UHC Law aims for a 100-percent health service coverage for all Filipinos, which is estimated to cost P257 billion in its first year of implementation alone, in keeping with Duterte’s commitment to attack poverty and improve living standards.

Similar to the proposal of the Finance and Health departments, Senate Bill 1599, filed by Pacquiao, aims to increase the tobacco excise tax to P60 per pack (regardless of brand or price) in the first year of implementation, and an additional nine percent each year thereafter. 

Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and JV Ejercito also proposed a higher excise tax rate of P70 per pack (SB 2177) and P90 per pack (SB 1605), respectively.

The two departments are also proposing an increase in alcohol excise tax rates.

They said raising excise taxes on “sin” products was still the most effective policy tool to affect alcohol and tobacco prices to discourage consumption and prevent especially the youth and the poor from smoking and binge drinking.  Such tax adjustments are part of Package 2+ of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program.

While the House of Representatives already approved higher excise tax rates for tobacco and alcohol in December last year, these new rates were much lower than the DOF-DOH proposal. The projected revenues from the new tax rates would not be enough to sustainably fund the UHC Law.

Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said “The total difference (between the House-approved version and the DOF-DOH proposal) is P244 billion if computations are done up to 2022. Such a funding gap might undermine the effective implementation of the UHC.”

The DOF-DOH proposal is ideal because it would prompt “the youth, the poor and other price-sensitive cigarette users to stop smoking,” Chua said. 

Price-sensitive consumers are those who are likely to be discouraged by higher prices from buying certain products.

Simulations developed jointly by the DOF, DOH and the World Health Organization indicate that the DOF-DOH proposal on a P60-per-pack increase in the tobacco excise tax will bring down cigarette consumption by 16.8 percent and enable 3.2-million adults to quit smoking.

In his sponsorship speech on SB 1599, Pacquiao said the approval of his bill would prevent an estimated 850,000 adults from smoking on the first year alone of its implementation.

Similarly, Gatchalian and Ejercito supported the increase in the tobacco excise taxes to raise the necessary revenues for quality health care.

“This legislation will help raise the needed revenues to sustain and enhance the proposed primary care system for Filipinos, while promoting better health and healthier lifestyles,” Gatchalian said previously in a press release.

Topics: Department of Finance , Department of Health , House of Representatives , Sherwin Gatchalian , JV Ejercito , World Health Organization
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