Amid rising concerns in many countries about the health risks of electronic cigarettes and vapes, Senator Pia S. Cayetano reiterated that Congress has the jurisdiction to impose higher taxes on these products as a means to regulate their use.
The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, Cayetano made the assertion at the start of plenary debates on Senate Bill No. 1074, which seeks to raise ‘sin’ taxes on alcohol and vaping products.
Responding to the questions of Senator Francis Tolentino, Cayetano clarified that Congress has already imposed taxes on e-cigarettes since the enactment of Republic Act 11346 earlier this year.
Tolentino had asked Cayetano whether Congress can impose a tax on e-cigarettes, even if these products have yet to be given certification by the government through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“As to whether we can tax a product that’s not been given permission to be sold, let me point out that under RA 11346, we (lawmakers) have already taxed e-cigarettes,” Cayetano noted.
“So this committee is not proposing a new kind of tax. It’s already recognized by Congress under its jurisdiction. This committee is just increasing that tax,” she added.
Cayetano pointed out that taxation is “just one tool” that would help curb these new kinds of vices. She said other pro-health initiatives should be put in place to complement the sin tax bill.
“Taxation is not the end-all, be-all. So we must help our health department come up with measures to provide a health approach to the problem of smoking and drinking,” she said, while expressing her plan to push for additional regulatory measures on e-cigarettes.
The senator said she is in the process of drafting a bill mandating the government to “look into the harmful effects of e-cigarettes,” which shall be referred to the Committee on Health.
She also intends to draft a measure that would regulate the marketing and ban the advertising of e-cigarettes in the country.
“Exposure to these products will be dangerous because the science is not yet clear about its dangers. I’m concerned for the young people in general as these products can easily entice them,” she explained.
“Our goal is to reduce people’s consumption of these sin products, on top of generating more revenues to finance our Universal Health Care program,” she stressed.
A total of 42 countries worldwide have already banned the use of e-cigarettes, while 10 countries banned the use of heated tobacco products (HTPs) due to growing evidence that such products are dangerous to people’s health.
Earlier this year, the FDA gave manufacturers, importers, and retailers of e-cigarettes three months to register and comply with specific regulations before they could sell their products legally.
These include a license to operate and the issuance of a certificate of product registration. The three-month period is set to end this October. (senate.gov.ph)