Philippines: E-cigarette industry’s non-cooperation with gov’t led to total ban — Sen. Pia Cayetano

21 November 2019
Julia Mari Ornedo and Amita Legaspi

Senator Pia Cayetano on Wednesday blamed the total ban on e-cigarettes on the refusal of key industry players to cooperate with the government’s previous efforts to enforce a regulation rather than a ban.

In a statement, Cayetano noted that the Department of Health (DOH) attempted last August to work out a possible regulation on e-cigarettes in cooperation with industry members.

“The DOH issued Administrative Order (AO) 2019-0007 last August precisely to lay down regulations for e-cigarettes products. Unfortunately, some members of the industry chose to question the AO in court instead of welcoming government regulation,” she said.

She said in the meantime, the very first case of electronic cigarette- or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) was reported in the country last weekend, involving a 16-year-old girl.

“No issue can be resolved if members of the industry would insist on shunning any form of regulation by constantly suing the DOH and FDA! With this attitude, a ban is really in order,” she said.

Cayetano said she will await the executive order to be issued by the President.

“Until then (issuance of EO), these products that everyone, even those in the industry, recognize as harmful are in the market, and should be taxed. And it is still my job to see this bill through,” said Cayetano, Senate ways and means committee chairperson.

In a press conference late Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a ban on the importation of vaping devices and vaping in public places because “it is not good and contrary to public safety.”

Cayetano said this pronouncement is an assertion of the authority of the State to restrict the use of any consumer product that endangers public health.

“I agree that when the people’s health is at risk, public interest must always take precedence over any business or commercial interest,” she said.

She said, over the months, she read numerous studies and reports on e-cigarettes, conducted hearings, had discussions with health advocates, including experts in World Health Organization, and listened  to the industry and the speakers they arranged for me to meet.

She said these led her to conclude that:

  • We are dealing with products that clearly  have health risks despite industry and their supporters saying the risks are less than smoking and that they are an effective device to help smokers quit;
  • These health risks are still being documented and studied;
  • Some of these products have caused deaths and severe illnesses in various forms.

“What this means is that we must really assess if this is a product that should be outright banned, as has been already done in some countries like Australia, Singapore, Brazil, etc., or strictly regulated, which was the direction I was taking as Chairperson of the Senate Ways and Means Committee,” she said.

Philippine National Police officer in charge Archie Gamboa had already ordered cops to enforce the ban on vaping in public areas. — BAP/RSJ, GMA News

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