(Bangkok, December 14, 2021): Doctors and health groups in the Philippines decried the Philippine Senate’s approval of Senate Bill 2239 (Vape Bill) on third and final reading despite firm and repeated protests from the health sector and public interest lawyers and youth groups.
Existing laws (Republic Act (RA) 11346 and RA 11467) to regulate electronic smoking devices (ESD), such as heated tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, already provide safeguards to protect public health, particularly youths: (a) prohibiting sales to non-smokers and anyone below 21 years of age; (b) restricting flavors to tobacco and plain menthol; and (c) mandating the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the manufacture, importation, sale, packaging, advertising, and distribution of these products.
SB 2239 will reverse these policies and make these products more widely available by lowering the minimum age of access from 21 years to 18 years, allowing sales to non-smokers, allowing online marketing and sales (where age verification is practically impossible), allowing multiple flavors that are attractive to teens, and replacing the FDA with the industry-friendly Department of Trade and Industry as the regulatory agency for these harmful products.
In comparison, ASEAN neighbor Singapore with 10.1% smoking prevalence, increased its minimum age to access tobacco products from 18 to 21 years old, banned e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, and maintains a strict ban on tobacco advertising, including online platforms.
According to the 2019 Philippine Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 14.1% of Filipino youths currently use e-cigarettes, while 10% are current smokers. In addition, 24.6% have ever tried e-cigarettes, more than double the 11.7% who had ever tried in 2015.
“SB 2399 is a backward bill and a disservice to the health and future of the Filipino youth,” said Dr Ulysses Dorotheo, Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.
“More than 43.3 million Filipinos are 20 years old and below, a quarter of whom are in their mid to late teens. We are concerned that, instead of moving towards a tobacco-free generation, SB 2239 will facilitate a new generation of nicotine addiction even as countries continue to struggle with COVID- 19.”
Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Officer, SEATCA
- Doctors urge Senate to junk ‘vape’ bill
- Philippine Global Youth Tobacco Survey
- SEATCA’s Tobacco Control Atlas ASEAN Region (5th Edition)
- Tobacco Industry Interference Index: Implementation of Article 3 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in Asian Countries, 2021
SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.