27 July 2022
On July 26, the Philippine News Agency reported that the reconciled Senate Bill No. 2239 and House Bill 9006, popularly known as the “Vape Bill,” had lapsed into legislation. This bill had been repeatedly criticized by leading professional medical societies, former Secretaries of Health, national government agencies, and civil society organizations, which called for its veto for undoing protections in existing laws.
A retrogressive bill in more ways than one
Clearly recognizing the health impacts of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, Congress introduced specific language in Republic Act Nos. 11346 and 11467 to safeguard public health from these harmful products: setting the minimum age of access at 21 years old, limiting flavors to only tobacco and menthol, and keeping these products under the science-based regulatory purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These public health protections will now be undone by the Vape Bill. The Vape Bill is also a major step backward as it is clear that vaping or smoking can worsen symptoms of COVID-19, which local authorities estimate will cost the country around USD 740 billion over the next ten years.
Recruiting a new generation of nicotine addicts
Furthermore, this rollback in policy shifts the public health paradigm from a proactive approach, based on the precautionary principle, to one that is industry driven. This approach, touted as innovative and respectful of choice, promotes newer nicotine and tobacco products as smoking cessation devices (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) and opens the floodgates for youth consumption and recruitment into nicotine addiction. This has been clearly and publicly demonstrated by the teen vaping epidemic in the United States. Parents Against Vape in the Philippines have raised concerns that the bill will lead to easier youth access to these products.
Not a health measure
The FDA has maintained that the Vape Bill is “not a health measure” and that the tobacco- friendly Department of Trade and Industry’s jurisdiction over consumer products under Republic Act No. 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, does not include health hazardous products. Based on this statute, the constitutional mandate of the Department of Health (DOH) to protect every person’s health, and a recent Supreme Court decision affirming the FDA’s authority, all products affecting health, including tobacco and its related products, are meant to be under the purview of the FDA.
In addition, this new law clearly goes against binding international commitment to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The Vape Bill is contrary to public health and an affront to the pro-health policy direction of the last ten years. This new law will victimize children and youths delivering a new generation of nicotine addicts to the industry on a silver platter.
Dr Ulysses Dorotheo
Executive Director, SEATCA
Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo is an internationally renowned Filipino tobacco control advocate with 25+ years of experience in patient care, education, and advocacy. Currently, Dr. Yul is the Executive Director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) and a member of the WHO Civil Society Working Group on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and the World Heart Federation Tobacco Experts Group.
Val Bugnot, Media and Communications Manager, SEATCA
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Mobile: +639173124600
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.