Higher tobacco taxes will help tobacco farmers while funding UHC, says SEATCA

Manila, 25 October 2018: Voicing support for Health Sec. Francisco Duque III’s call to President Rodrigo Duterte to certify as urgent Senate bill no. 1605 proposing to raise tobacco taxes to 90 pesos per pack, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) said tobacco tax increases are a “win-win” policy, even for tobacco farmers.

“History has shown the falsehood of Rep. Eric Singson’s claim that another round of tobacco taxes will kill the tobacco industry and the livelihood of millions of Filipinos. In 2012 Rep. Singson and the tobacco industry made similar claims against the then-proposed Sin Tax Reform that later became R.A. 10351,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of SEATCA, responding to Rep. Singson’s statements in an article published by the Manila Standard last 17 October 2018. “In fact, billions of pesos each year, equivalent to 15 percent of revenues from the Sin Tax Reform Law, which increased tobacco tax rates by as much as 820 percent for low-priced brands, are already earmarked for tobacco-growing provinces under R.A. 7171, while an additional 15 percent of the incremental revenues under R.A. 10351 are earmarked to help tobacco farmers and workers find alternative livelihoods,” added Dorotheo, asking “Are our tobacco farmers in the Ilocos congressional districts benefiting from those billions of pesos?” 

The Philippines’ 2012 Sin Tax Reform Law is often cited as a shining example of international best practice, having resulted in a million smokers quitting, especially among the youth and the poor, while generating much needed tax revenues, with a major part being earmarked for universal health coverage of poor families. According to the Philippine Global Adult Tobacco Survey, there were 16 million adult tobacco smokers in 2015 compared to 17.3 million in 2009.

“Health and economic experts agree, however, that the substantial public health gains are being eroded by inflation and economic growth. To sustain the reduction in tobacco use, cigarette tax rates should be increased immediately to Php 90 per pack followed by an annual increase of ten percent,” said Dorotheo. This would generate an additional 45 billion pesos annually to help fund UHC and lead to one million fewer smokers by 2022. Otherwise every year of delay has been estimated to result in 200,000 more smokers, who will be at high risk of tobacco-caused diseases, disabilities, and early death. Currently, tobacco kills more than 87,000 Filipinos annually.

The Philippine government should continue to increase tobacco taxes to further reduce consumption and raise much-needed revenues for social development programs like Universal Health Care, already certified urgent by President Duterte.

Regularly raising tobacco taxes to make tobacco products less affordable over time is one of the most potent and cost-effective measures to reduce tobacco use and save lives that 181 Parties including the Philippines have committed to implement under the global health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA

Email: wendell@seatca.org | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 ##

Related Links:


SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the evidence-based tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control movements in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.


Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter for the latest news and updates on our work in the ASEAN region and beyond.