Tiny tobacco tax increase in Philippines bicam bill sabotages health gains

Bangkok, 15 December 2017: The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) is appalled that a meager tobacco tax increase of Php 2.50 per pack annually until 2022 was inserted by the Philippine Congress Bicameral Committee as it consolidated the Senate and House Bills for the government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN).  

“The very small tax increase is both alarming and unsatisfactory because it is totally inadequate to further discourage youths from smoking and to generate revenues to finance the expanded universal health care in the medium to long term,” said Ms. Sopaphan Ratanachena, Tobacco Tax Program Manager of SEATCA. “This small but meaningless increase is a typical tobacco industry tactic to undermine effective tobacco control measures and should be vetoed by President Duterte before he signs the TRAIN bill into law,” she added. ”The President’s veto will signal to lawmakers the need for a much higher tobacco tax increase.”  

According to a 2012 Social Weather Stations survey, teenagers reported that a price of 10 pesos per cigarette or 200 pesos per pack would stop them from smoking. Current prices are far from such deterrent prices.

The Philippines’ 2012 Sin Tax Reform Law is often cited as a shining example of international best practice, having significantly reduced tobacco use, especially among the youth and the poor, while generating much needed revenues, with a major part being earmarked for universal health coverage of poor families.

“However, health and economic experts agree that the substantial public health gains are being eroded by inflation and economic growth. To sustain the reduction in tobacco use, cigarette tax should be increased immediately from its current rate of 30 pesos per pack to at least 60 pesos per pack,” said Ratanachena. This would 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 smoking-caused diseases, disabilities, and early death. Currently, tobacco-caused diseases kill more than 87,000 Filipinos annually.

Regularly raising tobacco taxes sufficiently high 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 under the global tobacco control treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). ##

Wendell C Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
Email: wendell@seatca.org | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 



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.