WHO launches new manual for tobacco taxation strategy to help in post-COVID health system recovery; cites PH ‘sin tax’ success story

Published April 13, 2021, 5:38 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a new technical manual that would provide countries with tobacco taxation strategies as a key component of building back better after COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) and help finance health system recovery.


In a statement on Tuesday, the WHO said the new manual also contains ways on how countries can cut down on over US$1.4 trillion worldwide losses due to tobacco use.

“We launched this new manual to provide updated, clear, and practical guidance for policymakers, finance officials, tax authorities, customs officials and others involved in tobacco tax policy to create and implement the strongest tobacco taxation policies for their specific countries,” said Jeremias N. Paul Jr, Unit Head for the Fiscal Policies for Health team in the Health Promotion Department at WHO.

In a separate report, the WHO praised the Philippines’ implementation of the “Sin Tax” as a “widely disseminated success story” that led to substantial reductions in tobacco use and increases in revenues used for its universal health care program.

The WHO noted that cigarette taxes in the Philippines are now at their highest with increases of five pesos annually until 2023, and with automatic increases of 5 percent thereafter.

According to the United Nations-backed agency, the evidence is clear that significant increase in tobacco taxes that lead to price increase has consistently proven to be the most effective mechanism for reducing tobacco consumption.

But data provided by the WHO indicate that in 2018, only 38 countries – the Philippines included — covering 14 percent of the global population had sufficiently high tobacco taxes.

The WHO maintained that raising tobacco taxes is SMART, an acronym for Save lives, Mobilize resources, Address health inequities, Reduce health system burdens and costs, and Target non-communicable risk factors for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Citing a 2020 study, the Washington-based advocacy group Campaign for Tobacco-free Kids said about 110,000 Filipinos die from tobacco-related diseases each year.

The launching of the new WHO technical manual came as tobacco manufacturers in the Philippines recently raised a howl on the planned hike on the price of tax stamps by government printing office APO Production Unit Inc. 

APO is said to be planning to implement what the industry players described as an “unconscionable and excessive” increase from the current 15 centavos to 23 centavos per stamp.