The Philippine Medical Association (PMA), composed of 88,000 doctors nationwide, renewed their appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to veto entirely the proposed Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act or the Vape Bill recently passed by the Senate and earlier approved by the House of Representatives.
The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) made the same appeal to Duterte to oppose the measure which also seeks to regulate vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products or vapes.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Department of Health (DOH) supports the call of medical societies to veto the Vape Bill.
In an on online press conference Monday, doctors coming from different medical groups rejected the assertions of lawmakers that vaping will protect the youth from cigarette smoking, stressing that vapes contain nicotine and some harmful substances used in tobacco products.
Doctors also reiterated their strong objection to the transfer of regulatory authority from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
DOH Usec. Eric Domingo has maintained that the FDA, which he used to head, and not the DTI should be the proper government agency to regulate the chemicals contained in vape products.
He pointed out the DTI is capable of regulating consumer products, but not health products which enter the body of a person.
“Vape products have a pharmacological and physiological effect on one’s body. Thus, the regulatory body needs to be able to test the products for harmful substances, which only the FDA is capable of doing,” he said
Dr. Cory Avancena, a pediatric pulmonologist, refuted claims the vape and e-cigarette smoking will protect the youth, refuting the claims because vape will also cause lung injury like cigarette smoking.
And since the Vape Bill proposes to lower the age from 21 to 18 of those who can buy vapes, Avancena warned it would be more harmful to the youth. She related that the youth’s brain for learning, memory, and moods in that age category is not yet fully matured.
The real motive of the tobacco companies behind this bill, Avancena emphasized, is to expand their market by targetting the youth.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, PCP president meanwhile echoed Avancena saying that tobacco companies merely wanted to make smoking available to more people, to include the youth.
Limpin, also a pulmonologist, said vapes will help smoking more available to all, including the youth. She added that the aim behind the bill is for the tobacco industry to expand its market to children.
“Once passed, this bill will deregulate the nicotine industry and will go directly against your promise,” Limpin told the President.
She said the Global Youth Tobacco Survey showed that 1 in 7 Filipino students aged 13 to 15 ears old are electronic cigarette users.
Dr. Antonio Dans of the Sin Tax Coalition disputed allegations that vapes or the vaporized nicotine products are alternatives to tobacco because they had less toxins. He said this applies only to smokers.
When nonsmokers use these products, instead of ‘harm reduction,” Dans said there will likely be a two-fold increase in tobacco addiction, a four-fold increase in excessive alcohol intake, and a five-fold increase in the use of illicit drugs.
While admitting there are still no conclusive studies on the harmful effects of vapes smoking, the doctors, however, noted there ade prospective studies proving there are already harmful effects.
In February 2020, Duterte issued Executive Order No. 106, ordering a ban on the manufacture, distribution, marketing and sale of unregistered e-cigarette products and its use in public places.
That directive came three months after Duterte ordered a ban on e-cigarettes which authorities implemented days later, amid criticisms that the ban had no legal basis.
EO 106 did not ban e-cigarettes per se, but prohibited the manufacture and sale of unregistered heated tobacco products and electronic cigarettes or vapes, as Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III explained following the release of the order.
Under the reconciled bill for regulating vape products, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was tasked to handle the registration of vape products. The DTI will also consult with the FDA in setting technical standards for the safety, consistency, and quality of the vape products.
Last week, the bicameral conference committee reconciled the disagreeing provisions of the Senate and House versions of the measure seeking to regulate vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products or vapes. It still needs to be ratified by the Senate and House of Representatives before it reaches Malacañang for Duterte’s signature. With Willie Casas