The FCTC Alliance, Philippines (FCAP) has been advocating for much-needed reforms of the so-called ‘sin tax’ on tobacco. It has highlighted that at least 90,000 people die every year from tobacco-related diseases, in a country with an adult smoking prevalence of 28.3 per cent and 17 per cent youth prevalence and with the lowest taxes and prices on tobacco in southeast Asia (taxes on cigarettes are only 30 per cent on average, ranging from 14 per cent to 42 per cent). Research from the World Health Organization and the Philippine Department of Health outlines the range of undesirable costs that tobacco use in the Philippines imposes on society and its citizens, including disease and death, increased healthcare costs and potentially increased hunger, malnutrition and poverty, if scarce resources are used for purchasing tobacco. In order to demonstrate the benefits of taxing tobacco, they show the evidence of a strong correlation between the real price of tobacco and smoking levels in countries where this has been measured, including South Africa, Singapore,Thailand, Canada and the US. Thus, increasing the price of tobacco through taxation can have a real positive impact upon public health. Moreover, the taxes collected will generate additional revenue, which can be allocated for social development spending such as health and education.
Action for Economic Reforms (AER) and FCAP have collaborated on a campaign that has succeeded in pushing for two tobacco tax reform bills to be filed in the lower House of Congress.The bills seek the setting of a single rate for all cigarettes, increasing the rate and indexing it to inflation, and earmarking some of the revenues for health promotion programmes and providing an alternative livelihood for tobacco farmers.
Similarly, in Indonesia, members of the informal IndonesianTobacco Control Network (ITCN), such as researchers from the University of Indonesia’s Demographic Institute, lobbied members of parliament to convince them of the need to increase the tobacco tax.They produced their own reports and fact sheets to make their case. Supported by a regional tax initiative of the Southeast AsiaTobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), they also provided evidence to their parliamentarians from elsewhere in the southeast Asian region, such as on the impact of the tobacco tax in Thailand (currently at 85 per cent of the base price of cigarettes), which has contributed to gradually declining smoking prevalence, yet a tripling of government revenues from tobacco tax from 1992 to 2009. As a result of this advocacy, the Parliament has included a new tobacco tax in a local tax bill, the RegionalTax and Levy Bill, which proposes to increase tobacco excise tax to 10 per cent at the district level.Tobacco companies have lobbied to delay the tax until 2014.