A group of health advocates called on senators Tuesday to vote on the proposal to raise taxes on alcoholic beverages, heated tobacco products, and vapor products by the end of the week.
“Raising taxes on alcohol, HTPs, and vape is an urgent health measure that must quickly be approved to safeguard the health of the Filipino people,” Sin Tax Coalition co-convener Dr. Anthony Leachon said.
“Given that this is a reform that has already been certified as urgent by the President, we hope that our senators facilitate the immediate passage of this bill, and vote on the measure by the end of the week,” he said.
Senate Bill 1074, sponsored by Ways and Means committee chairperson Pia Cayetano, was certified as an urgent measure by President Rodrigo Duterte last month.
Her proposal seeks to align the tax rate of HTPs and vape with traditional cigarettes at P45 beginning next year, P50 in 2021, P55 in 2022, and P60 in 2023, with 5 percent annual increases from 2024 onwards.
Leachon emphasized the need to raise taxes on HTPs and vape to prevent an epidemic of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI), similar to what is happening in the United States. In the US, almost 2,300 cases of EVALI have been reported, and 48 people have lost their lives.
Last month, the Department of Health reported the first case of EVALI in Cebu City. The patient was a 16-year-old girl who had been using e-cigarettes for the past six months.
“Increasing the tax on e-cigarettes and vape is necessary to make these products less affordable and accessible. In doing so, we will be able to discourage Filipinos from consuming these products, and curb the number of EVALI cases in the country,” Leachon said.
Cayetano also mentioned the need to err on the side of caution when it comes to HTPs and vape, given the lack of conclusive evidence that the products are indeed safer than traditional cigarettes.
“HTPs and vape are considered the cigarettes of the future, and clearly the industry would promote this in the best way they can, which is to address it as a healthier product. This is no problem if it in fact is healthier, but until this is declared as such by the health experts, we cannot endorse this as a safer product, and cannot recommend a lower tax rate,” she explained.
Meanwhile, for alcoholic beverages, Cayetano proposes to increase the tax on distilled spirits from P23.5 to P90 per proof liter with a 20 percent 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.
The revenues raised from the tax increase will also generate funds for the Universal Health Care Law. Calculations from the Department of Finance have shown that Cayetano’s measure is expected to generate around P47.9 billion, which would help bridge the funding gap for the UHC’s implementation starting next year.
The period of interpellations for SB 1074 was closed in Monday’s plenary session, and the period of amendments will proceed on Tuesday.