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Philippines E-cigarette Groups Push Signing of Vape Bill

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VARIOUS groups pushed for the signing into law of the Vape bill, or the “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act,” to provide adult smokers with “better alternatives” and to “end the smoking epidemic in the country.” These groups — Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP), Philippine E-cigarette Industry Association, Consumer Choice Philippines, Quit for Good, Vapers PH, Vaper Ako, Pro Vape, Philippine Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates Inc. and the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates — held a rally on May 6 in Quezon City to reiterate their call for a comprehensive vape regulation.

They said that the bill aims to help regulate smoke-free alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products. The bill, they added, will protect minors and ensure that such products comply with government standards. Dr. Lorenzo Mata, head of anti-smoking advocacy group Quit for Good, said the Vape bill can help the 16 million Filipino smokers kick the deadly smoking habit for good.

“We share the same goal with the rest of the health sector to end the smoking problem in the country.

The current conventional cessation approaches, however, fall short of producing significant results. That’s why we are advocating pragmatic ways to help adult smokers leave smoking behind. Contrary to conventional knowledge, nicotine is not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases and death. Science has proven time and time again that combustion — in the case of cigarettes, burning tobacco — is what produces the thousands of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals. There is no dearth of science that backs this fact, though some people chose to ignore it,” he added.

These groups said that the vape measure will also fill the gap in local regulation involving the sale, manufacturing and importation of smoke-free alternatives such as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and other novel tobacco products.

NCUP President Anton Israel said that the bill, which awaits President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval, will provide smokers having a hard time quitting cigarettes access to “less harmful alternatives” while spelling out the rules to protect minors.

“May penalties, may kulong (There are penalties and there is imprisonment). We don’t have a law yet that stringently and clearly lays down the regulations on vapes and heated tobacco products. Aside from helping adult smokers, the Vape bill will generate funds to support the Universal Health Care. Hindi lang smokers ang matutulungan nito (It is not just smokers that this bill can help),” he said.

Vaper Ako spokesman Joaqui Gallardo said the bill contains strong provisions designed to protect minors.

“[It] bans the sale and promotion of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products to minors. It also bans flavor descriptors that are attractive to minors. It even prohibits the sale or use of e-cigarettes near schools. Undoubtedly, the bill is cognizant of the welfare of our youth, while giving adult smokers an exit route to smoking,” he said.

Similarly, consumer group Pro Vape also expressed hope that the bill will be signed into law, pointing out that it will help stop the smoking epidemic and support the rights of Filipino consumers to choose alternatives that are “better and far less harmful than cigarettes.”

“We firmly believe that having access to these alternative products and the right information about them will be beneficial to adult smokers. Let’s not deprive them of a better option that science has to offer. Adult consumers have the right to choose,” Consumer Choice Philippines president Luis de la Paz added.

However, the Department of Health has expressed strong opposition to the bill, saying that some of its provisions contradict public health goals and international standards.

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