December 16 –A big win for the industry and a big loss for children and public health amid the pandemic.
This is how Child Rights Network (CRN), largest alliance of organizations and agencies pushing for children’s rights legislation in the Philippines, described the Senate’s passage of the dangerous Senate Bill No. 2239 or the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Bill on third and final reading.
SB 2239 relaxes regulations on the sale, distribution, use, and promotion of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes, and heated tobacco products (HTPs), which the bill collectively calls vaporized nicotine products (VNPs).
“Child rights advocates across the country are one in saying that we are beyond dismayed over the Senate’s move to heed the sway of big tobacco, instead of listening to scientific data and expert analysis. While we do not discount recent strides our senators have done for the future of Filipino children, this latest development is one sore thumb that sadly betrays the fact that at the end of the day, moneyed lobbyists – especially from big tobacco – can have their way, even in the hallowed halls of Congress,” CRN Convenor Romeo Dongeto said.
CRN slammed SB 2239 for lowering the minimum age of access to e-cigarettes from age 21 to 18, setting aside the proposal of several health experts to maintain 21 years old, which is the existing age restriction based on Republic Act (RA) 11467. The bill also allows the use of addictive flavors that attract use among the younger generation, and even allows the online sale of e-cigarettes. It also transfers regulation of these products from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as stated in RA 11467 to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
“What’s more, the Senate has set aside several studies and warnings issued by no less than the World Health Organization, and even the Department of Health against the use of e-cigarettes. SB 2239 makes it appear that e-cigarettes are less deleterious to health than traditional tobacco products, even if science proves otherwise,” Dongeto explained.
The WHO and DOH have both repeatedly cautioned the public regarding harmful chemicals in ENDs and HTPs such as nicotine, ultra-fine particles, carcinogens, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds. Results generated from peer-reviewed studies show that e-cigarette juices contain high levels of addictive nicotine, which can result in acute or even fatal poisoning through ingestion and other means.
Studies have also shown that using nicotine in adolescence can harm parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. Using nicotine in adolescence may also increase the risk for future addiction to other drugs. Accidental ingestion of nicotine is also poisonous to children. An accidental explosion of devices can also cause physical harm.
“Child rights advocates have been very active in advising our legislators to look at this issue not as a trade issue but rather as a health issue. Instead of softening existing regulation on the sale, distribution, and promotion of e-cigarettes, we repeatedly called on Congress to strengthen regulations. This is a great blunder that can and will undoubtedly trigger another full-blown public health crisis,” Dongeto said.
“While SB 2239 has already passed the Senate, the Vape Bill is not yet law. While the window of opposition is growing slimmer, advocates will not stop from sounding the alarms. The battle is not over. Together, let us all express our vehement opposition to this moneyed move,” he concluded.