New ‘sin taxes’ on cigarettes and alcohol to fund universal health care

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sin taxes

Sin taxes on cigarettes and alcohol are due to be hiked in order to fund a universal health care programme for the Philippines.

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has brought forward a series of so-called ‘sin tax’ bills to the Senate.

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During a press briefing yesterday (Friday, May 17), he said his department wanted the Philippines to be one of the healthiest countries in Southeast Asia by 2040.

“This can only be done if we keep Filipinos healthy and we provide affordable health care to those who get sick, and these are the two main reasons why we need to increase tobacco and alcohol taxes once more,” he added.

More than just being a means to raise funds, Sec. Duque said increased alcohol and tobacco taxes were were a public health measure.

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“It is harder for the youth to buy these harmful products when the prices of alcohol and cigarettes are higher. We can only reduce consumption by making these ‘sin’ products less affordable to consumers,” he said.

Citing that a million smokers quit in 2015 following the passage in 2012 of Republic Act 10351, the Sin Tax Reform Law, Sec. Duque said the alcohol and tobacco taxes must be raised once more to stop putting the lives of 250,000 Filipinos at risk every year.

“The revenues gathered from sin taxes provide the much-needed financing to realise our health reforms. More people, especially the poor, are now covered by the national health insurance programme and it enabled us to scale up our non-communicable disease prevention programme and to assist our tobacco farmers,” he said.

The DOH and Philheath need a total of 257 billion pesos to improve the health insurance coverage of all Filipinos and expand the benefit packages they provide.

“We need to secure sufficient and sustained resources to ensure that the health system will be set up and transformed as envisioned in the next 10 years,” he said, adding that President Duterte and the Cabinet had approved the DOH’s proposal on increased alcohol and tobacco taxes.

He also urged civil society organisations, medical communities, and health advocates to continue supporting the DOH in its campaign against alcohol and tobacco.

“Three out of four Filipinos agree that tobacco taxes must be raised based on the recent Pulse Asia Survey. There is clearly a demand from the people to get this done,” he said.

There are still nine days remaining in the 17th Congress for the pending bills on increased alcohol and tobacco taxes to be passed.

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