Bangkok, June 29: United with public health advocates and health experts in the Philippines, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) reiterates its call for President Rodrigo Duterte to protect the Filipino youth and veto the consolidated House Bill No. 9007 / Senate Bill No. 2239 also known as the Vape Bill.
Philippine laws already exist to effectively regulate electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products. Republic Act No. (RA) 11346 and RA 11467 have provisions that: (a) prohibit sales to non-smokers and anyone below 21 years of age, (b) restrict flavors to allow only plain tobacco and plain menthol flavors, (c) require graphic health warnings in line with the Graphic Health Warning Law of 2014, and (d) mandate the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate these products in order to protect public health.
The Department of Health and Department of Education are also opposed to the vape bill, which threatens public health, especially child health, as it loosens flavor bans, lowers the age restrictions from 21 to 18 years old, and allows the online marketing and sales of electronic smoking devices. The vape bill also transfers the regulatory purview of the Food and Drug Administration over these emerging nicotine and tobacco products to the Department of Trade and Industry, which itself has avoided claiming regulatory purview with respect to these products’ health impacts.
The country’s Supreme Court recently made a landmark decision affirming the well-understood authority of the FDA and the DOH, under the FDA Law (RA 9711), to regulate all products affecting health, including tobacco products in line with the FDA’s mandate and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
“The Vape Bill is a retrogressive and unnecessary bill. More than 43 million Filipinos are below 20 years old, and this bill will leave our youth exposed to the dangers of these products. Instead of moving towards a tobacco-free generation, the Vape Bill will facilitate a new generation that is addicted to nicotine,” said Dr Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of SEATCA.
“The suspicious timing of the bill’s submission to the Office of the President indicates a machination by the tobacco industry. The bicameral version of the Bill was passed on January 26; why submit it to the Office of the President five months later and only a few days before the end of the President’s term on June 30? Was this intentional to avoid close scrutiny by the outgoing administration?”
The Philippine Global Youth Tobacco Survey noted that about 14% of Filipino youth use e-cigarettes, while 10% are active smokers. In Singapore, where there is 10.1% smoking prevalence, the minimum age to access tobacco products was increased from 18 to 21 years old. Singapore also banned e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products and currently enforces strict regulation over tobacco advertising, including online platforms.
Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Manager, SEATCA
- Philippine youth in danger as Senate rolls back minimum age on electronic smoking devices
- Philippine Global Youth Tobacco Survey