Why sin tax bill matters in meeting dev’t goals

Tobacco use endangers the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals

MANILA, Philippines – If the Philippines want to meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015, then government must help reduce tobacco use.

This was the position of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) along with civic groups like HealthJustice and the Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control and local think-tank Action for Economic Reform (AER) regarding a strong sin tax bill’s role in tobacco reduction.

On Friday, October 12, various civic groups gathered at the CHR parking lot to voice their vehement opposition to Senator Ralph Recto’s “watered down” version of the sin tax bill.

“The reason why we are here today is because we have to fight for our rights and the recent developments at the Senate is not good for all Filipinos’ right to be healthy,” CHR Chairperson Coco Quisumbing said.

“Who are they looking out for? Who will these senators protect? Will our leaders protect the profits or Pinoys? What is more important to them? The profits of corporations or the health of every Filipino, especially those who are most in need,” she added.

On October 10, Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Ralph Recto presented Senate Bill (SB) 3299, which intends to raise for government additional revenues of P15 billion to P20 billion, half of the P31 billion in earlier versions.

The bill, now referred to as the “Ralph Morris Bill,” proposes lower taxes on tobacco products. This, the civic groups and the CHR believe, runs contrary to the Sin Tax Bill’s health goals which is to also discourage tobacco intake among young and old in the country.

MDGs and tobacco use

In a fact sheet, the Framework Convention Alliance (FCA) for Tobacco Control said that as early as 2004, the United Nations said tobacco use would have an adverse impact on health, poverty, education, and the environment.

The MDGs are a set of 8 quantifiable goals and targets for global human development, which are anchored on eradicating extreme poverty by 2015. The MDGs were formulated in September 2000 by 189 member-states of the UN.

The Philippines is one of the countries that signed the Millennium Declaration which included the MDGs. To date, the country has not achieved all the MDGs and may not achieve at least two – achieving universal primary education and reducing maternal mortality.

The country is also falling behind in the goal of reducing HIVs. While the country is an eaRly achiever in this goal, new cases of HIV has been recorded, particularly among the youth.

“Tobacco control needs to be included in the programmes of countries working on achieving the MDGs. Tobacco control also needs to be a key component of development assistance programmes in general,” UN Secretary General’s report on Tobacco Control stated in 2004.

The FCA said tobacco use can take away household resources for food, health care, education and other priorities. This poses a threat to meeting a family’s education and health requirements.

Further, the FCA said some tobacco factories employ children due to the high demand for tobacco in various parts of the world. This not only opens children to abusive work conditions but also take them away from school.

The fact sheet also said tobacco also:

  • increases the risk of children having lower respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, coughing and
  • wheezing, worsening of asthma, and middle ear disease; 
  • causes low birth weight among infants born to women who smoke;
  • causes spontaneous abortion, still-birth and neo-natal mortality, and is a likely cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS);
  • increases risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as lung cancer, oral cancer and cervical cancer among women who smoke;
  • a major cause of complications in pregnancy, premature birth, stillbirth, and long-term developmental
  • and behavioural problems among children;
  • increases the risk of smokers with the HIV to develop full-blown AIDS twice as quickly;
  • promotes the onset and outcome of tuberculosis;
  • causes 200,000 hectares of forest are cut down each year to be used to cure tobacco; and
  • creates an enormous amount of solid waste.

“Approximately 5 million people die from tobacco-related illnesses each year. By 2030, 10 million people will die each year, with 70% of those deaths occurring in developing countries. If current trends continue, about 650 million people alive today will eventually be killed by tobacco, 15 half of them in productive middle age, each losing 20 to 25 years of life,” FCA said. – Rappler.com

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