‘Sin tax’ bill and Manny’s ‘wild rabbit’By Rafael Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It came like rain in the desert. Just when doctors and health government workers felt so frustrated about the seemingly half-hearted commitment of our legislators in curbing all forms of addiction victimizing the youth, especially smoking and alcoholism, the House committee on Ways and Means showed some political mettle and will last week when it voted for the passage of House Bill 5727, more popularly known as the “Sin Tax” bill.
There is no question that should this bill be finally approved into a law, it would be a big step forward for healthcare in the country. The House committee voted 46 for and 14 against with one abstention to approve the bill. Finance Undersecretary Jeremias Paul helped deliver the winning shot by introducing amendments that changed important provisions of the bill acceptable to the majority, especially members of the National People’s Coalition—the party of San Miguel Corp.’s tycoon, Danding Cojuangco.
It shows what synergism the executive and legislative branches of government is capable of achieving if they only work together. Hopefully, there won’t be much of a problem anymore when the bill undergoes debate and approval in the House plenary. We can all do our part by expressing our sentiments to our congressmen and senators about the importance of this bill until it is finally enacted into a law.
One might say that the proposed “Sin Tax” bill is a vital anti-addiction measure at curbing two of the most prevalent causes of addiction—smoking and alcoholism. So much have been said and written already on the hazards of tobacco addiction particularly on the impressionable youth.
A growing concern
Just as pernicious as smoking is alcoholism or alcohol abuse. It is equally a growing concern in the country among the youth, and the scientific literatures contain research data suggesting that young people who smoke and drink alcohol regularly are more prone to take addictive drugs and fall prey to other forms of substance abuse.
It is lamentable that chronic alcohol intake does not seem to be recognized as a medical problem in our country and most countries of the world. Being “social drinkers” is an acceptable norm, and gulping down several bottles of beer or a few shots of whisky after a hard day’s work is considered a well-deserved treat that melts one’s stress, and fosters camaraderie among friends.
The big problem though is that just like in any form of addiction, one is slowly lured into overindulgence until the compulsion to drink alcohol becomes uncontrollable already. And with alcoholism comes many forms of physical, psychological and social problems.
In a previous column, we joined the call of several advocates against mass-media advertisements of beer and any form of alcohol because of its negative influence on the youth.
Just as all mass media advertisements of cigarettes have been banned already, so must it be for all alcohol products, especially because of its adverse influence on the youth.
A teenager is likely to think that beer-drinking and alcohol intake must be the in-thing and a sign of success when he sees celebrity endorsers like Manny Pacquiao endorsing alcohol products like beer or whisky.
Hopefully with increased cost of alcoholic drinks which the increase in taxes the “Sin Tax” bill would impose on alcohol products should it be enacted into a law, buying them would be beyond the reach of our youth whose only financial means is the allowance they receive from their parents or guardians. Making alcohol products relatively unaffordable will serve as a deterrent for those who haven’t tried it yet from ever attempting to start.
For those who are well off, they’ll probably not be affected by the increase in alcohol cost. Not that it’s all right for them to be exposed to whatever hazards alcohol drinking could lead to, but at least they know very well what they’re up to with their foolhardiness. Anyway, they can also afford to shoulder the medical costs should they develop any illness because of it.
If we can keep our youth off cigarettes and alcohol, there’s a good chance we could keep many of them off other forms of substance abuse especially prohibitive drugs.
We hope, too, our celebrity endorsers would think a dozen times about the impact of their endorsements of alcohol directly or indirectly on the youth before they agree to such deals.
Again going back to Manny Pacquiao’s alcohol endorsements, he did another well executed, and obviously highly funded commercial for premium alcohol brand Hennessy. Although the TV ad had an inspiring theme about how he perseveringly chased his “wild rabbit” in his youth—figuratively alluding to his seemingly impossible dream of attaining the status he now has, still it does little in chasing the healthier “wild rabbit” of keeping our youth away from any form of potential addiction such as alcoholism.
We hope that with Manny’s newfound enlightenment from reading the Bible, he would know better than accepting endorsement deals that can have a detrimental impact on the many who idolize him. This is probably not a “wild rabbit” to hope for.
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