The battle to increase tobacco taxes: Lessons from Philippines and Ukraine
Publication Source

Social Science & Medicine

Journal article
Europe, South-East Asia
Economy status
Lower-middle-income economies

While increasing taxes on tobacco is one of the most effective tobacco control measures, its adoption has been slow compared to other tobacco control policies. Given this, there is an urgent need to better understand the political and economic dynamics that lead to its adoption despite immense tobacco industry opposition. The primary aim of this study is to explore the process, actors, and determinants that helped lead to the successful passage of the 2012 Sin Tax Reform Law in the Philippines and the 2017 seven-year plan for tobacco tax increases in Ukraine. Method: Under the guidance of the Advocacy Coalition Framework, we used a case study approach gathering data from key informant interviews (n = 37) and documents (n = 56). Subsequently, cross-case analysis was undertaken to identify themes across the two cases. Results: We found that external events in the Philippines and Ukraine triggered policy subsystem instability and tipped the scale in the favor of tobacco tax proponents. In the Philippines, elections brought forth a new leader in 2010 who was keen to achieve universal health care and improve tax collection efficiency. In Ukraine, the European Union Association Agreement came into force in 2017 and included the Tobacco Products Directive requiring Ukraine to synchronize its excise taxes to that of the European Union. Exploiting these key entry points, tobacco tax proponents formed a multi-sectoral coalition and used a multi-pronged approach. In both countries, respected economic groups and experts who could generate timely evidence were present and used local as well as international data to counter opponents who also used an array of strategies to water down the tax policies. Conclusions: Findings are largely consistent with the Advocacy Coalition Framework and suggest the need for tobacco tax proponents to 1) form a multi-sectoral coalition, 2) include respected economic groups and experts who can generate timely evidence, 3) use both local data and international experiences, and 4) undertake a multi-pronged approach.