Like a much-needed medicine, the law is working wonders on those afflicted with nicotine addiction. And the biggest beneficiaries are the most vulnerable segment of society — youth and the poor.
This became evident as the Departments of Health and Finance, Bureau of Internal Revenue, the World Health Organization, and the World Bank presented the results of Social Weather Stations, Inc. survey showing the effectiveness of the sin-tax law in reducing smoking prevalence among the youth and the poor.
As part of the celebration of the World No Tobacco Day on Saturday (May 31) with the theme “Raise Taxes on Tobacco”, Health Undersecretary Nemesio Gako, speaking on behalf of Health Sec. Enrique T. Ona, reported a decline in smoking prevalence among youth and the poor based on the SWS survey commissioned last March 2014.
“Initial finding survey showed that there was a reduction in the use of tobacco among the poor and the young 18 years and 24 years old and also what you called class E, these are the target of our campaign although the overall campaign really encompasses the entire population that smoking should be stop”, Gako said.
Results of the survey showed that smoking prevalence decreased among those belonging to Socio-Economic Class E or the very poor which dropped from 38 percent in December 2012 to 25 percent in March 2014. Across age groups, smoking prevalence among those belonging to the 18 to 24 year-old age group also reduce from 35 percent in December 2012 to 18 percent in March 2014.
Overall smoking prevalence in the country is at 26 percent as of March 2014. Almost 9 out of 10 (88 percent) current smokers, smoke daily.
The results showed that there is a reduction of smoking prevalence among population sub-groups, the overall smoking prevalence in the country has not yet significantly decreased since the implementation of the sin-tax law.
One possible reason for this is the shift to less expensive brands.[pq]Based on the survey, 45 percent of smoker switched to another brand cigarettes when prices increased.[/pq]
Almost seven out of 10 (67 percent) smokers buy cigarettes per stick, making it more affordable than buying per pack. According to the survey, median price of cigarette per stick in the country is at Php 3.00 in spite of the price increase.
The DoH commissioned the SWS survey “On Usage, Attitudes and Behavior of Filipinos Towards Tobacco” aimed at assessing the effects of the Republic Act 10351, otherwise known as the sin-tax law, a year after its implementation.
“But as of now, the total picture is there is no significant reduction (reducing overall prevalence of smoking in the country) but it will take some time, because smokers will just go to another way of obtaining the cigarette, meaning to say will change brand to lesser price until such time he is willing to give up his smoking”, Gako said.
Finance Undersecretary Jeremias Paul, who was also invited during the briefing, noted that cigarette companies have not really fully passed on the tax to the smokers as the premium brand essentially subsidize the low cost brands.
“The implementation of the Sin Tax law is in its initial stage and we are very hopeful that it will reach its goal of reducing overall smoking prevalence in the country as tobacco taxes continuously increased each year. As of now, the Sin Tax law is already providing health benefits to Filipinos by contributing additional funds for the implementation of DoH’s Kalusugang Pangkalahatan program”, said Ona in a statement.
DoH has a computed share of 41.1 billion from the actual 2013 sin-tax revenue collections which was allotted to expansion of PhilHealth coverage to 14.7 million poor and near-poor Filipino families with subsidy from the national government from P12.5 billion in 2013 to P35.6 billion in 2014. The remainder of funds would go to upgrading health facilities.
– DFF, Medical Observer