Press Release
November 8, 2019

Pia: Higher sin taxes to curb binge drinking among Filipinos

Binge drinking among Filipinos has already reached alarming levels, according to Senator Pia S. Cayetano, as she reiterated the need to impose higher sin taxes to discourage excessive alcohol consumption and mitigate its health and social costs.

The senator made the assertion at the continuation of floor debates on Senate Bill No. 1074, the chamber's version of the measure that seeks to raise excise taxes on alcoholic beverages and electronic cigarettes.

The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Cayetano defended SB 1074 in plenary during the interpellation of Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday (November 6).

The senator pointed out that binge drinking has emerged as a major problem not only among Filipinos, but also around the world.

"Just to put on record, the WHO [World Health Organization] is very much concerned about alcohol drinking worldwide, and it is its policy to use taxation as part of a comprehensive package to address this concern," she cited.

In the Philippines, more than half or 55.7 percent of adults are binge drinkers or consuming large quantities of alcohol, according to the 2018 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

"The harmful effects of binge drinking are catastrophic and are recognized globally. This is what we are trying to address through higher sin taxes," Cayetano said in explaining the tax rates under SB 1074, which are higher than those approved by the House of Representatives and the rates proposed by the Finance Department.

Moreover, citing a recent article published in London-based magazine The Economist, Cayetano said alcohol already ranks first on the list of substances that are most harmful to people's health and safety, the community, economy, and environment.

Based on the list, alcoholic beverages are considered even more dangerous than heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and tobacco.

"We need to ensure that the most dangerous products are not cheap. We cannot save lives by increasing the prices of sin products by a negligible amount," she underscored.

"We make this an effective measure when the price increase is substantial enough that people will think twice about the volume of products they purchase and consume," she added.

Furthermore, the senator said comprehensive action is needed from the government to protect Filipinos from the health risks of alcohol, as it has done so for tobacco products.

"We may have done a good job on the detrimental effects of cigarettes, but we have not done equally so for alcohol. We have prohibitions on cigarettes, but we lag behind on alcohol. In other countries, they are even regulating advertisements on alcohol," she noted.

"I'd also like to assure my colleagues that I am not using taxation in an isolated manner. As soon as this tax reform measure is passed, I will work more on the health issues and other prevention tools on alcohol, cigarettes and e-cigarettes," Cayetano added.

"Taxation is an effective barrier [against consumption of sin products] which has been used in many countries. So even though it is a difficult tool to use, because the lobby in this field is high, it is a tool that we must not shy away from," the senator concluded.

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