Youth groups back higher tax on e-cigarettes

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    Various youth groups are calling for the passage of measures that seek to impose significantly higher taxes on alcohol, heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes to ensure sufficient funding for the Universal Health Care (UHC) program, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

    The DOF said in a statement these youth groups urged lawmakers to pass Senate Bill (SB) No. 1074, which the DOF and Department of Health jointly support.

    The bill represents a component of Package 2 Plus of the comprehensive tax reform program.

    In a press conference after the recent Sulong Pilipinas: 2019 Students Tax Convention at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, the Youth for Sin Tax, a member of the Sin Tax Coalition of civil society groups, described “sin” taxes as “the single most effective way of significantly reducing consumption of ‘sin’ products among the youth who are sensitive to price increases.”

    The National Capital Region (NCR) chapter of the National Federation of Junior Philippine Institute of Accountants (NFJPIA), which has 20,000 members in different colleges in Metro Manila, likewise gave its nod to higher “sin” taxes.

    NFJPIA-NCR pointed out that “alcohol is the leading cause of death for young people,” and that “one out of five e-cigarette users is aged 10-19 years old.”

    “We reiterate our support for the Package 2 Plus in its entirety, for this will allow us to make a significant investment in our country’s health, and ultimately, the nation’s long-term development,” NFJPIA-NCR said in its statement.

    The Benilde Central Student Government, meanwhile, expressed support for the reform, more so because additional funding for UHC can “make mental health interventions more accessible.”

    The Junior Philippine Economics Society (JPES), the leading national organization of economics students, also called for the immediate passage of SB 1074.

    “SB 1074 is an advantageous measure insofar as public health and fiscal health are concerned,” the official statement by JPES read.

    SB 1074 is now in the period of plenary interpellation and has been certified as an urgent bill by President Duterte.

    Joining other youth groups in supporting the call for higher “sin” taxes is the Youth Alliance for Health Reform (YAHR), a national organization of young medical professionals and students of health-related programs.

    “The proposed measure under Package 2+ will provide policy-level interventions that will lead to significant health and societal impact. This will further secure the necessary funding for the full implementation of UHC,” YAHR said in a statement.

    “We affirm the need for the full implementation of UHC that will cater to the health and medical needs of all Filipinos, especially those who cannot afford quality and reliable healthcare services,” YAHR added.

    Youth for Sin Tax, YAHR, NFJPIA-NCR and JPES presented their statements to DOF Secretary Carlos Dominguez, who acknowledged the youth groups for their support for the tax reform in his speech at the close of the Sulong workshop.