More Filipino doctors pushed for the enactment of the final version of the Vape Bill, which they said, will fill the gap in local regulation, as the current laws are not enough to prevent the sale of vapor products to the youth and stop the proliferation of substandard devices.
Dr. Telesforo Gana, past president of the Philippine Urological Association, said a review of the final version of the Vape Bill will show that it is designed to prevent the use of vape products by the youth.
“I have always followed the developments on the Vape Bill because I know it will benefit people like me who were once a long-time smoker and was able to successfully quit smoking and shifted to less harmful products like vape and heated tobacco products,” said Gana.
“Even if I am not a lawyer, it is easy to see that the final version of the Vape Bill is better than RA 11467 because it adequately protects our youth by providing several provisions that will ban the use of these products to minors including a ban on using flavor descriptors that appeal to minors―in addition to the flavor ban under RA 11467. Many or most of the provisions of the vape bill are not contained in RA 11467,” he said.
Republic Act No. 11467, or the law imposing taxes on vapor products, only provides for a one-paragraph provision regulating vapor products, particularly on the ban on the use of flavors that appeal to minors and age restrictions.
Gana, past chairman of the Philippine Board of Urology, said illegal vape products proliferated in the market.
“There were several instances that I almost bought a fake product had I not noticed that the same did not contain the tax stamp required by the BIR. I think there is a low level of compliance because RA 11467 does not provide for penalties, particularly for those caught selling flavored vape products. Hopefully, the Vape Bill will address this legal loophole to encourage 100-percent compliance by manufacturers and retailers in order to protect our youth,” said Gana.
The final version of the Vape Bill aims to prohibit high-nicotine products in the country and strengthen the penal provisions on the sale of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products to minors.
“The final version is way better than what we initially had hoped for. It is very comprehensive and restrictive, more restrictive than the tobacco law,” said Dr. Fernando Fernandez, secretary-general of the Asia Pacific Dental Federation.
Fernandez said the Vape Bill fulfills the promise of President Duterte to ban high nicotine e-cigarettes and illegal vape products that target the youth.
“We don’t have this kind of ban existing today under RA 11467. I strongly support and recommend the passage of this important public health measure,” he said.
Fernandez, the past president of the Philippine Dental Association and the Philippine College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, cited the need to have a comprehensive law that will regulate vapor products to fully protect the youth while encouraging 16 million Filipino smokers to kick the habit.
“How can a one-paragraph provision of RA 11467 regulate all aspects of vaping and vape products?” said Fernandez.
“This is the reason we need the vape bill because it is a very detailed one covering all aspects of the product including how it is marketed and sold as well as rules on product standards and registration,” he said.
Fernandez said that unlike RA 11467, the final version of the Vape Bill contains penal provisions that are meant to penalize violators of its provisions.
The Vape Bill, after three years of deliberations, was overwhelmingly approved by both the Senate and Congress on January 26, 2022 and is touted to be a landmark public health legislation by many including those in the scientific and medical community.
“No one can argue with science, and the science on vape products shows that they are significantly less harmful than cigarettes. There is no doubt that the passage of the vape bill will benefit the health of our 16 million Filipino smokers and protect our youth. This is our best hope to end the smoking epidemic,” said Dr. Assunta Mendoza, former head of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Manila Medical Center.
Public health regulators around the world including Public Health England and the New Zealand Department of Health concluded that vaping is 95-percent less harmful than smoking.
Canada and Switzerland are among several countries that have also enacted a comprehensive law to regulate vape products with the aim to make less harmful alternatives accessible to smokers.