STRESSING that it will strengthen the agency’s efforts in protecting learners from getting into smoking, the Department of Education (DepEd) has expressed strong support for having President Duterte’s certify as urgent a Senate bill imposing higher taxes on tobacco products.
“Significant increase in tobacco tax will lead to higher prices of cigarettes, making them less affordable and less available especially for the youth,” Education Secretary Leonor Briones said.
The President approved during the first Cabinet meeting in 2019 the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Finance (DOF) to certify as urgent Senate Bill 1599, which aims to increase the tax on tobacco to P60 per pack.
The DOH and DOF have been calling for the passage of the bill to curb smoking prevalence among Filipinos and to generate funds for the government’s Universal Health Care program.
The DepEd acknowledged that effective tobacco taxation complements their own tobacco control efforts.
“In school, we teach our learners to reject tobacco use. But education alone is not enough. Outside the school, we need policies that will help reinforce our learners’ health-promoting choices, complementing what we teach them in school,” Briones added.
The DepEd has its comprehensive tobacco control policy, issued through DepEd Order 48, Series of 2016, which aims to educate learners, teachers, and nonteaching personnel on the hazards of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke; adverse socioeconomic and environmental consequences of tobacco production and consumption; tobacco control policies; and the tactics of the tobacco industry to circumvent tobacco control measures, glamorize smoking, and downplay or deny the addictive and harmful nature of tobacco products.
The DepEd noted that increasing the prices of tobacco products through taxation has been proven successful in preventing young people from smoking and having a lifelong addiction.
In the Philippines, tobacco tax was most effective in reducing smoking among the younger age groups.
“If we succeed in preventing our learners from smoking, perhaps until they graduate from Grade 12, [chances are high] that they will never smoke in their lifetime,” Briones added.
A comparison of the National Nutrition Surveys conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology in years 2008, 2013 and 2015 reveals that the relative reduction in smoking prevalence is biggest among those below 20 years old. This was during the same period when the implementation of the “sin” tax law led to a significant increase in the tax and prices of cigarettes.
“The DepEd is hopeful that our lawmakers will adhere to our call for a significant increase in tobacco tax, for the promotion of the health of Filipinos and the protection of our youth,” Briones said.
Image credits: Alysa Salen