Health advocates urge lawmakers anew to pass increased tobacco tax measure

By Analou De Vera

Health advocates urged lawmakers anew to pass the proposed increase in the tax rates on tobacco products.

These men take a cigarette break in an alley in Intramuros, Manila, probably oblivious to the nationwide ban on smoking that took effect Sunday ( July 22). (Camille Ante | Manila Bulletin) (CAMILLE ANTE / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

"There is a very high clamor for this reform, and we would like to once again appeal to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri to continue to prioritize the deliberations on the tobacco tax measure in the Senate agenda, and shepherd the safe passage of the measure on Monday," said Arjay Mercado, researcher of Action for Economic Reforms (AER) group.

To note, the Senate Bill No. 2233 seeks to increase the excise tax on tobacco products to help fund the Universal Health Care and to reduce the smoking prevalence in the country.

The bill proposes to raise the excise tax on cigarettes to P45 per pack in 2020; P50 in 2021; P55 in 2022; and P60 in 2023, with five percent annual increase thereafter.

"We are really grateful that Senator Sonny Angara took the initiative to sponsor the committee report in the plenary. We also welcome the strong support manifested by senators Manny Pacquaio, Sherwin Gatchalian, JV Ejercito, Risa Hontiveros, Franklin Drilon, and Panfilo Lacson for the passage of this measure," said Mercado.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Leachon, convenor of the Sin Tax Coalition, said that the implementation of the UHC will "require enormous financing that cannot be supplied by the current pool of funds."

"An increase in tobacco tax will help fund UHC, and improve healthcare access by solving chronic problems such as the severe shortage in healthcare workers. UHC without sustainable funding will not work," said Leachon.

READ MORE: Senate expected to pass bill on tobacco excise tax June 4