On July 26, Senate Bill 2239 and House Bill 9006, popularly known as the “vaping bill,” became law. The bill has been repeatedly criticized by leading professional medical societies, former health secretaries, national government agencies and civil society organizations, who have called for its veto to roll back existing law protections.
A retrograde bill in more ways than one
Clearly recognizing the harms of electronic smoking devices (ESDs), such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, Congress introduced specific language in Republic Acts Nos. 11346 and 11467 to protect public health from these products. Harmful: (1) prohibiting sales to non-smokers and anyone under 21, (2) limiting flavors to only regular tobacco and regular menthol, (3) requiring 12 graphic health warning designs similar to those required for other tobacco products under Republic Act No. 10643, and (4) keep such products under the scientific regulatory jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All of these public health protections will now be overridden by the new measure, now known as the Nicotine and Non-Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act (Republic Act No. 11900). This new law is even more retrograde because it is clear that vaping or smoking can worsen symptoms of COVID-19, which local authorities say will cost the country an estimated $740 billion over the next 10 years.
Recruit a new generation of nicotine addicts
This policy rollback shifts the public health paradigm from a proactive, precautionary approach to an industry-driven approach. This approach, touted as innovative and respectful of choice, promotes new nicotine and tobacco products as smoking cessation devices (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) and opens the floodgates to youth consumption and subsequent recruitment into the workforce. nicotine addiction. This has been clearly and publicly demonstrated by the teenage vaping epidemic in the United States. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, smoking prevalence among adolescents (13-15 years old) in the Philippines is already quite high at 10%. To compound this problem, 14% of teenagers use ESDs, with a high of 21% among teenagers. Parents Against Vape in the Philippines had raised concerns that the bill would lead to easier access for young people to these products.
These fears are fueled by the fact that the new law now lowers the minimum age for admission to 18, allows online marketing and sales of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco to make them as widely available as possible, and allows for many more flavors in addition to tobacco and menthol. Young Filipinos are constantly online and will be exposed to attractive tobacco and e-cigarette advertisements. the purchase of tobacco and nicotine products. According to a survey by the Philippine Pediatric Society, the top two reasons for vaping among young people are online accessibility (32%) and variety of flavors (22%).
Not a health measure
While proponents of the Vape Bill insist that these electronic smoking devices are consumer products to be regulated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the DTI is not mandated to regulate products health ; this is given by the Philippine Constitution to the Department of Health (DOH). In fact, during congressional hearings on the Vape Bill, the DTI said it could only regulate electronic devices and not liquids and other consumable ingredients, which it said should be regulated by the DOH and the FDA.
The FDA argued that this new law is “not a health measure” and pointed to the fact that the pro-tobacco DTI’s jurisdiction over consumer products under the Consumer Law of the Philippines (Law of the Republic No. 7394) does not include products hazardous to health. Based on this consumer law, the DOH’s constitutional mandate to protect everyone’s health, and a recent Supreme Court decision upholding the authority of the FDA, all products affecting health, including tobacco and its related products, were believed to be under the regulatory jurisdiction of the FDA.
The FDA and DOH position that this new law is contrary to public health is strongly supported by the overwhelming majority of the Philippine medical and scientific community, comprised of 59 medical societies and health professional organizations led by the Philippine Medical Association, as well as more than 70 civil society organizations.
Furthermore, this new law clearly goes against the binding international commitment to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which requires policies to prevent and reduce tobacco consumption, nicotine addiction and exposure to tobacco smoke.
Tobacco Industry Interference and Influence to Undermine Public Health
The Vape Bill was approved by both chambers of the 18e Congress in January 2022, but it was not forwarded to the president’s office until June 24, five months after it was approved and five calendar days before incumbent Rodrigo Duterte leaves office. This and the industry-friendly provisions in the measure raised suspicions from a senator that the delay may have been designed to avoid scrutiny by President Duterte, who was known for his anti-tobacco and anti-vaping stance. and issued Decree No. 26. on the Nationwide Smoking Ban and Executive Order No. 106 prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and distribution of electronic cigarettes that do not comply with FDA requirements.
This new law only serves to promote the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry and undermines the country’s pro-health policy orientation of the past 10 years. This new law will victimize children and young people, delivering a new generation of nicotine addicts to the industry on a silver platter. – Rappler.com
Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo is an internationally renowned Filipino tobacco control advocate with over 25 years of experience in patient care, education and advocacy. Currently, Dr. Yul is the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and a member of the WHO Civil Society Task Force on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and the Tobacco Expert Group of the World Heart Federation.