A year into the implementation of the sin tax law, the Department of Health (DOH) saw a marked decline in the number of urban smokers especially among the youth.
“Although we’ve been only a year into the implementation of the sin tax law, we are glad to see a decrease in smoking prevalence among the youth and the poor, the main groups we aimed to protect through the law. Reducing overall prevalence of smoking in the country however, will take some time,” DOH Secretary Enrique Ona told a press conference on Friday.
Ona cited a Social Weather Stations (SWS) Survey on Usage, Attitudes and Behavior of Filipinos Towards Tobacco conducted in March to assess the effects of the controversial law a year after its implementation.
The study showed that the prevalence of smoking in urban areas fell from 38 percent in December 2012 to 25 percent in March 2014. Across age groups, smoking prevalence among the youth was likewise reduced from 35 percent in December 2012 to 18 percent in March 2014
According to the survey, almost seven out of ten (or 67 percent) of Filipino smokers buy cigarettes per stick, being more affordable than buying per pack. Median price of cigarette per stick in the country is at P3 in spite of the price increase.
The DOH press briefing was held in observance of World No Tobacco Day on March 31 with its theme “Raise Tobacco Tax, Lower death and disease,” in cooperation with the Department of Finance (DOF), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank.
Republic Act 10351 or “An Act Restructuring the Excise Tax on Alcohol and Tobacco Products” was signed into law in December 2012. The Sin Tax Reform Law applies higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol products to deter the poor, especially the youth.
According to the study of Action for Economic Forums, a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute between the Philippines and Thailand over cigarette taxes and the possibility of tax evasion after the imposition of the Philippine sin tax suggest that effective administration of ad valorem taxation required governments to have a strong command of product valuation, both domestically and in traded products.
The study added that the recent sin tax reform experience demonstrates how better coordination and cooperation can lead to positive policy outcomes that most governments and the general public are seeking: superior public health and improved economic prosperity.
As of now, the sin tax law is already providing health benefits to Filipinos by contributing additional funds for the implementation of DOH’s Kalusugan Pangkalahatan program, Ona added.
Finance Undersecretary Jeremias Paul, DOH Undersecretary Nemesio Gako, and Dr. Julie Lyn Hall, WHO Country Representative, served as panelists in the news conference.