How we won the sin tax law: the Philippine sin tax story in social media messages
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Action for Economic Reforms, Philippines
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A638
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Recognizing social media as a potent tool in lobbying for tobacco control policies, this paper analyzes the Philippines´ success in enacting the 2012 Sin Tax Reform Law and the social media strategies that accompanied its passage.
The study aims to demonstrate successful messaging strategies that ultimately pushed the Philippine Sin Tax Reform to be passed into law. Specifically, this paper extracted core messages from original digital advocacy materials (social media posts, videos, etc) and compared them against
(1) information picked up by traditional media (e.g. news articles) and
(2) salient arguments in favor of the sin tax reform during legislative sessions.

Employing thematic analysis aided by qualitative research software Atlas.ti, the study analyzes social media messages of the Bawas Bisyo Facebook page (the main social media outlet of the Philippine sin tax advocacy) from October 2012 to January 2013. This is the period during and immediately after the intensive online campaign for the passage of House Bill (HB) 5727. The core messages are then compared against top news articles captured by Google News with the keywords “Philippine sin tax law”; within the same time frame.

To date, the salient messages are
(1) clamor for universal healthcare funded by tobacco tax,
(2) exposing tobacco industry interference through fabricated claims by pro-tobacco legislators and journalists,
(3) government experiencing increased revenue due to higher tobacco tax, and
(4) demand for irrefutable proof that a tobacco tax reform will ensure lowered smoking prevalence.

The aforementioned messages are the parts of a communication strategy that was successfully captured by traditional media and the legislative sphere. For a country able to hurdle reforms against a deeply-entrenched tobacco lobby, the Philippine example could serve as a reference to other groups seeking to replicate the same success with their own tobacco tax legislation.

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