Child Rights Network (CRN), the largest child rights alliance, has urged the Philippine government to commit to stronger tobacco control measures, especially on the use of electronic cigarettes or vapes, which the group said has contributed to a growing youth ‘vapedemic’ in the Philippines.
This call comes amidst the ongoing 10th session of the Conference of the Parties of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in Panama.
“We are concerned that the lead of the Philippine delegation is not from public health. A convention on health issues without strong leadership prioritizing health perspective risks being influenced by the interests of the tobacco industry,” said Mr. Rom Dongeto, CRN Convenor and Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development.
At the previous convention, the Philippines received three “Dirty Ashtray” awards due to its alignment with tobacco industry interests.
“Latest data from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey shows that Filipino children as young as 13 are already being introduced to nicotine addiction through e-cigarettes. Despite regulations prohibiting the sale of these products to minors, the recent enactment of the pro-tobacco industry Vape Bill has worsened the situation,” said Mr. Dongeto.
“Vapes are like candies now. The pro-industry legislation has allowed a wider range of flavors and youthful packaging and marketing, lowered the age of access from 21 to 18, and eased restrictions under the guise of “harm reduction,” added Mr. Dongeto.
“It is evident that the tobacco industry is exerting influence in international meetings to promote their ‘harm reduction’ agenda, despite clear evidence to the contrary,” said Mr. Dongeto. “The Department of Health and other health authorities have refuted these claims. To perpetuate such lies is a blatant disregard for public health.”
Health experts warn of the early consequences of vaping, including lung injuries, exacerbation of health issues, and the alarming rise of youth populations drawn to these products.
“Some smokers are merely transitioning to dual use, while the youth, previously unexposed to nicotine, are being lured into addiction,” Mr. Dongeto concluded.
The 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey shows that 14 percent, or 1 in every 7 Filipino children aged 13 to 15, were already using e-cigarettes.