Taxes on traditional and e-cigarettes must be equivalent
This is in response to the article “Sotto finds additional tax on e-cigs a ‘bit high’” (9/30/19). In the report, Senate President Vicente Sotto III was quoted as saying that he believes the tax rates on electronic cigarettes submitted by the Senate committee on ways and means were “a bit high.”
The Action for Economic Reforms strongly supports the proposal of the ways and means committee chaired by Sen. Pia Cayetano to tax heated tobacco products (HTPs) and vape equivalently, as traditional cigarettes are taxed. In the last month, there has been a spike in the number of vaping-related illnesses in the United States. A total of 805 cases of preventable illness due to vaping have been reported, and 13 people have already lost their lives.
HTPs and vape must be treated as substitutes to traditional cigarettes and therefore should be taxed equivalently. These products expose the young to tobacco addiction. It is a major cause of concern that, per the 2018 National Nutrition Survey, one out of five users of vape in the country is age 10-19 years old, compared to one out of 20 users for traditional cigarettes. Given that the debilitating health hazards associated with vaping are now starting to surface, our legislators must be proactive in ensuring that the necessary steps are taken to prevent a similar epidemic from happening in our country.
The sin tax law of 2012 has already proven to be an effective tool in significantly reducing the consumption of sin products such as cigarettes. Thanks to this reform, smoking prevalence in the country has decreased from 31 percent in 2008 to 20.7 percent in 2018.
As such, increasing the tax will be an effective means of intervention to protect the Filipino youth from the harms of vaping.
Aside from lowering the consumption of these harmful products, the proposed sin tax reform is projected to generate around P47.9 billion in incremental revenue. This will help bridge the funding gap that currently exists for the first year of implementation of the Universal Health Care Act signed earlier this year.
Finally, we wish to remind Senator Sotto that this reform is one that is strongly supported by the executive. In his State of the Nation Address earlier this year, President Duterte urged both the House of Representatives and the Senate to pass higher taxes on both alcohol and tobacco products.
As someone who professes to support the agenda of the current administration, Sotto must be the first to endorse this tax increase. He must take the lead in improving health outcomes for all Filipinos by supporting the passage of this key health reform.
ARJAY MERCADO, program officer, Action for Economic Reforms, [email protected]
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