Advocates to Congress: Vape not safe, strictly regulate

Quezon City, March 5—Public health and tobacco control advocates come together and urge legislators to pursue pro-health regulation and protect the gains of Republic Act (RA) 11467, a landmark legislation that imposes higher excise taxes on alcohol and electronic cigarettes or vapes, and heated tobacco products (HTPs)  and introduced regulatory provisions for these harmful products.

The key regulatory provisions introduced by RA 11467  include the mandate for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate e-cigarettes and HTPs, ban on sale to young people below 21 years old, and ban on flavors . 

Currently, a technical working group (TWG) created by the House of Representatives Joint Committees on Trade and Industry and Health are consolidating 20 bills seeking to regulate e-cigarettes. During the series of meetings, the TWG members have voted to reduce the role of FDA in regulation,  lower the age restriction from 21 to 18, and allow flavors – decisions that weaken the pro-health stance introduced by RA 11467.

Regulation primarily a health issue

“RA 11467 has just recently been enacted. We await the the implementing rules and regulations for it, particularly the regulatory provisions for e-cigarettes. The FDA’s power to determine and regulate the manufacture, importation, sale, packaging, advertising, promotion, and distribution, and even ban on flavorings of vapor products and heated tobacco products should be upheld. We urge our lawmakers to respect the FDA’s mandate in regulating vape and e-cigarettes,” said Atty. Benedict Nisperos, legal consultant of HealthJustice Philippines.

Protecting Filipino children and youth

“The age restriction at 21 and ban on flavors are crucial provisions that will protecting children and young people from addiction to nicotine,” highlighted Dr. Riz Gonzalez of the Philippine Pediatric Society. The brain, particularly the prefrontal cortex, responsible for executive functions, continues to develop until the age of 25, Dr. Gonzalez explained. Flavors, meanwhile, are what attract young people to e-cigarettes, she added. 

EO 106 expands smoke-free environments

Members of the panel also welcomed President Duterte’s  issuance of of Executive Order (EO) No. 106, which strictly regulates the sale, manufacturing, and use of vape and e-cigarettes in public places. Signed in February, EO 106 expands the mandate of EO No. 26 that establishes smoke-free public and enclosed spaces, to include e-cigarettes and HTPs.

“The use of vape and e-cigarettes is a major public health concern. We welcome the commitment of the President to smoke-free spaces, which now includes the prohibition of vaping in public spaces,” said Mr. General Franco, representative of Parents against Vape and the Parents-Teachers Associations Federation of Davao Region.  

Public health over private interests

“We will remain vigilant of any move to undermine or weaken the health regulations adopted in the recently passed laws designed to safeguard the public, especially the youth. We will hold accountable and expose those who seek to weaken public health initiatives in favor of the interests of an industry that have profited and continues to profit from the addiction of our youth,” the groups commit in a unity statement.