Taxing tobacco, alcohol
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
In an unprecedented attempt to ensure that the health status of the majority of Filipinos is better than any average individual, former Cabinet officials recently came up with collective measures that will protect health and save the lives of many of our countrymen, including those who have yet to be born. The officials included, two from Negros Oriental, former Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones.
Basing on the experiences of the United States as a high-income country, and Thailand as a middle-income country, the officials have agreed that increasing taxes is the single most effective measure in curbing tobacco and alcohol consumption. Known as harmful products because of their ill effects on people’s health, increased revenues on them are now also known as “sin taxes.”
Anchored on House Bill 5727 authored by Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, the measures seek to assist tobacco farmers who will be affected by the ultimate reduction of tobacco consumption in the country. Teves said the bill will give farmers the option to try other crops as alternative. Teves also proposed that the support could be similar to Conditional Cash Transfer plan where farmers could be guaranteed income provided that they shift to other crops.
The rise of chronic non-communicable diseases in the Philippines has prompted officials to curb this incidence. For one, smoking is the top killer in the country with seven of the top 10 causes of deaths among Filipinos being tobacco-related. The latest statistics reveal that 515 to 827 Filipinos contract smoking-related lung cancer and lung and heart diseases daily. Health costs and productivity losses due to smoking-related diseases range from P148 billion to P314 billion per year.
Alcohol consumption, on the other hand, brings about various economic costs and social problems, like vehicular accidents, fetal deformities, violence and crimes, spousal and child abuse, and many other incidences that are also increasing.
Imposing these so-called sin taxes will increase revenues for the Universal Health Care Program, including coverage in PhilHealth for approximately 5.2 million poor families. As a result, not only will it benefit the farmers and the youth, but will also increase public services. As people are wont to say, health is wealth.*