Senator Pia’s ‘Greta’ act

September 30, 2019

IN coming out with a bold committee report imposing higher taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, Senator Pia Cayetano practically did a “Greta Thunberg” to liquor and tobacco companies who intensely lobbied in and out of the Senate to get a lower tax on their products.

She practically yelled at them and uttered a loud “How Dare You!” for trying to hoodwink the public that they deserve compassion and, therefore, a lower tax.

Alcohol and its variant alcopops will be taxed higher under Sen. Pia’s committee report.

Tobacco companies have now entered the infantile e-cigarette market to save their floundering business often marred by regulations and high taxes by luring smokers to go smokeless or switch to vaping.

For vapor and heated tobacco e-cigarettes, Sen. Pia did not buy the claims of e-cigarette and heated tobacco companies that their products are less harmful and should be taxed lower compared to regular cigarettes to give smokers a chance.  

The sleek slide presentations of these groups during committee hearings of the Senate ways and means sought to project a new product that promises to save smokers who are seeking a way out of their vice.

The companies and their expert witnesses sold to Pia’s committee a world that is smoke-free with a product that lowers health risks and entices smokers to go vapor or try heated tobacco e-cigarettes.

But the feisty lady senator stood her ground and drilled into the pages of her committee report that vapor and heated tobacco products must be taxed the same way regular cigarettes is taxed.

This means from an earlier lower tax of P10 approved into law, Sen. Pia brought up the tax on such products to a high of P45. The P45 tax on vapor and heated tobacco e-cigarettes will be now the same as cigarettes come January 2020 only if her committee report will be left unmolested by lobbyists.

The lady senator believes that vapor and heated tobacco e-cigarettes are equally dangerous to health like the much-maligned cigarettes and therefore, should be accorded the same tax slapped on tobacco.

And the news of young people dying from vaping did not also help the cause of companies which launched or about to launch their own e-cigarette brand in the country.

Sen. Pia, amid the flurry of meetings with vaping-ecigarette groups and their position papers, decided to champion the ‘youth, health and revenue’ in her committee report.

Pia’s courageous act to go against Big Alcohol and Big Tobacco by taxing them to the max is akin to what Greta did during that Climate Change summit.

The 16-year old Swedish Greta thundered the Climate Change summit filled with big shot world leaders by taking them to task for failing to preserve the environment, which they will inherit - dying and barren.

Sen. Pia’s own iteration of “How Dare You” is also taking to task companies which should stop fooling the Filipino people with their claim of less risk or risk reducing products and start paying higher tax.

The Senate led by Senator Tito Sotto should be commended by giving Pia the free hand in running the affairs of her committee.

Pia’s ‘Greta’ act also serves as a stern warning to her colleagues who co-signed the report to stand their ground and resist the plenary and bicameral lobbying of vested interests.