Health group renews call for higher tobacco taxes

Amid proposals to tax sugar-sweetened beverages and other commodities, HealthJustice Philippines, a think tank and advocacy group with legal expertise in tobacco control and health promotion, once again calls attention to increasing taxes on tobacco products. 

“We call on Congress to immediately take action to increase tobacco taxes once session resumes in a couple of weeks. Both a health measure and a revenue measure, tobacco tax is meant to discourage smoking, expand health insurance coverage and improve public health programs and facilities,” said Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza, President of HealthJustice. 

The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Lower (TRAIN) proposed by the Department of Finance (DoF) taxes sugar-sweetened beverages, exempts workers earning PHP 250,000 or less annually from payment of personal income tax, reduces donor’s taxes and estate taxes, and broadens the value-added tax base.

The TRAIN bill passed third reading in the House of Representatives last May 31, two days after President Duterte certified it as urgent despite concerns raised by soda manufacturers.

“Under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), we are mandated to implement measures aimed at reducing tobacco consumption. WHO likewise recognizes tobacco tax as an effective means to discourage smoking. Amid the backlash against taxing certain commodities, it would be wise for the Congress to rethink significantly increasing tobacco taxes,” Fernandez-Mendoza stated.

Smoking-related diseases kill 240 people die every day in the Philippines. Dubbed as the leading cause of preventable deaths globally, tobacco consumption causes around six million deaths annually worldwide. 

HealthJustice is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is a Programme Partner of the NCD Alliance.

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Image via Time

Health Justice Philippines © 2014