Amid rising concerns in many countries about the health risks of electronic cigarettes and vapes, Senator Pia Cayetano reiterated that Congress has the jurisdiction to impose higher taxes on these products as a means to regulate their use.
Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, has filed Senate Bill No. 1074 which seeks to raise "sin" taxes on alcohol and vaping products.
She clarified Congress has already imposed taxes on e-cigarettes since the enactment of Republic Act 11346 earlier this year.
“As to whether we can tax a product that’s not been given permission to be sold, let me point out that under RA 11346, we [lawmakers] have already taxed e-cigarettes,” Cayetano said.
Meanwhile, a group of health advocates called on President Rodrigo Duterte to certify alcohol and e-cigarette tax increase as urgent
In a unity statement submitted to the President, health advocates from the Sin Tax Coalition called on the President to certify the proposal to raise taxes on alcoholic beverages, heated tobacco products (HTPs), and vapor products as an urgent measure.
“We note the administration’s pronouncement in the 2019 State of the Nation Address asking Congress to prioritize the passage of the bill increasing the excise taxes on these sin products,” said STC co-convenor Dr. Anthony Leachon.
“It is in this light that we urge your Honor to certify the passage of the higher alcohol and tobacco taxes as urgent. It is our common goal to have the new higher taxes on alcohol, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products implemented on the first day of 2020,” he added.
Representatives from medical societies such as the Philippine Medical Association, the Philippine College of Physicians, and the Philippine Pediatric Society, together with youth groups, senior citizens groups, urban poor communities, and other members of civil society organizations signed the coalition’s unity statement.
Leachon said the main reason that the excise tax on alcohol, HTPs, and vape must be increased is to prevent young people from accessing them.
The main reason to tax these products is to protect young people from accessing the product. It is alarming that in 2015, 67 percent of students who ever had a drink of alcohol other than a few sips drank alcohol before the age of 14, according to the Global School-Based Student Health Survey.
The National Nutrition Survey of 2018 showed one out of five e-cigarette users in the country comes from young Filipinos aged 10 to 19 years old.
The coalition stated that taxation has been established as the most effective tool to stop people from drinking and smoking since the Sin Tax Law of 2012 was passed.
Furthermore, the coalition reiterated that the passage of higher alcohol and tobacco taxes would provide a sustainable funding source for the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law, whose implementing rules and regulations were signed last week.
Cayetano sponsored Senate Bill 1074 before Congress went on its sine die break. Cayetano’s proposal seeks to align the tax rate of HTPs and vape with that of traditional cigarettes at PhP 45 starting next year.
For alcoholic beverages, Cayetano proposes to increase the tax on distilled spirits from PhP 23.5 to PhP 90 per proof liter with a 20% ad valorem tax beginning next year. Meanwhile, fermented liquors and alcopops would be taxed at P45 per liter, up from P25.4. Finally, a specific tax of P600 would be imposed on sparkling wines, while a specific tax of P43 would be imposed on still and carbonated wines beginning 2020.
Cayetano pointed out that taxation is “just one tool” that would help curb these new kinds of vices. She said other pro-health initiatives should be put in place to complement the sin tax bill.
“Taxation is not the end-all, be-all. So we must help our health department come up with measures to provide a health approach to the problem of smoking and drinking,” she said, while expressing her plan to push for additional regulatory measures on e-cigarettes.