The Department of Finance (DOF) secured the full backing of the Department of Health (DOH) as well as Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the proposed ban on unauthorized online selling of alcohol, cigarettes and other “sin” products.
In a joint statement quoted by the DOF, the DOH and FDA vowed to closely work with all government agencies in developing “a comprehensive regulatory framework to allow only legitimate and registered [sin product] sellers” in e-commerce platforms.
The DOH and FDA support for the ban on the unregistered online selling of “sin” products also covers electronic cigarettes “and other novel tobacco products,” the DOF said.
“The Philippines has come a long way in safeguarding the public from the dangers of tobacco and alcohol consumption through its taxation policies and stringent regulatory measures,” the DOH and FDA said in their statement.
“With wider and easier access to ‘sin’ products through technology, regulatory purview should be expanded to ensure that online selling is similarly covered,” they added.
The DOH and FDA noted that it cannot be overstated that in this time of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, health should be of utmost priority.
“Products that increase the risk of contracting and developing a more severe form of COVID-19 and its comorbidities should be avoided, if not totally eliminated. The DOH and FDA further stress that now is the time to quit and for the youth not to take up this habit,” they said.
Dominguez had said the DOF will work to ban the unauthorized sale of liquor, cigarettes and other “sin” products in the electronic marketplace to ensure that these vice-inducing goods are no longer accessible to minors.
He issued the statement after finding out that digital commerce platforms such as Lazada are selling popular alcohol products and cigarette brands, with some of them being offered at big discounts.
The only way to monitor whether such online transactions are not being offered to minors is a click box warning that the buyer should be “at least 18 years old to enter” the seller’s page.
The DOH and FDA said their support for this DOF initiative is likewise “consistent with our effort towards a comprehensive prohibition of all forms of advertising, promotions and sponsorships by the alcohol and tobacco industries.”
They said the government “must exercise its duty to protect the health of the people, especially of teenagers who can potentially use online platforms to freely access these products and pick up the habit of smoking and/or alcohol drinking in the long term.”
Consumer safeguards such as seller registration, product quality, and safety mechanisms to validate recipients of “sin” products are essential to preventing minors from purchasing these online, the DOH and FDA said.
“Expanding this regulatory purview to cover the online selling of these ‘sin’ products is a progressive step in protecting the health of Filipinos,” they added.
Excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, have substantially increased since President Duterte signed two “sin” tax reform measures into law.
Republic Act (RA) No. 11346 or the Tobacco Tax Reform was signed into law in July 2019, while RA 11467, which further increased taxes on alcohol, heated tobacco products and vapor products, was signed last January 2020. The taxes collected from “sin” products will mostly be used to augment the massive funding required for the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program.