06 June 2019

The 17th Congress was adjourned sine die with the approval of the bill raising tobacco excise tax, which will help fill the Php 40 billion funding gap to implement the Universal Health Care law.  

Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said:

“We are one step closer to enacting this bill that seeks higher tobacco excise taxes into law. On behalf of the Department of Health, I extend my gratitude to President Rodrigo Duterte for his support, our legislators at the Senate and Congress, and the Department of Finance led by Secretary Sonny Dominguez for fighting with us to protect the health of every Juan and Juana. 

It is estimated that smoking prevalence will decrease to 20% by 2023, short of DOH’s 15% target. We therefore urge all Local Government Units to implement other measures that will discourage youth from smoking and current smokers to quit, to complement the tax hike. 

The revenues generated will also fund primary care which is the foundation of the Universal Health Care program. This means that it will cover outpatient consultations and medicines for all Filipinos. The vision of UHC is to provide comprehensive quality and affordable health care without discrimination.

The passage of the bill is a testament to how collective action can result into policies for the greater good.”

Since revenues for UHC are still insufficient, the Department of Health looks forward to additional revenues from increasing alcohol tax. 

The approved measure also taxes Electronic Nicotine and Non-Nicotine System Delivery Systems (ENDS/ENNDS) or more popularly known as e-cigarettes. There are claims surfacing that e-cigarettes are healthier alternatives to smoking. The Department of Health (DOH) reiterates its position that e-cigarettes should be treated and regulated no differently than other tobacco products until it is proven that e-cigarettes are absolutely safe for consumption.

Secretary Duque concluded: 

“I’m aware of the claims that e-cigarettes contain fewer toxic chemicals and are therefore good alternatives to smoking. Current available evidence on the long term health effects of e-cigarettes is inconclusive. Its effectiveness as a smoking cessation tool has also not yet been proven. At the moment, we cannot say for certain that e-cigarettes are completely harmless. For the DOH, there is absolutely no acceptable level of harm especially when Filipino lives are put to risk. ”

The DOH looks forward to working with colleagues at the 18th Congress in creating policies that uphold the health and well-being of the Filipinos.