President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night jested that he had ordered police to kill the inventor behind vaping devices, days after he imposed a nationwide ban on the use and importation of e-cigarettes.
“I don’t know the devil who invented that. I asked to look for that person to [subject] him to extrajudicial killing. Son of a bitch,” President Duterte said in a speech, drawing laughter from his audience, during the launch of the Elderly Program Center in Taguig City.
“Where’s the police? Tell him to kill that son of a bitch,” he added.
Duterte might be referring to Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, who was credited for the first commercially-known vape.
In 2003, he obtained a patent for his invention and began hitting the market through the Chinese company Ruyan that he worked for.
Ruyan, in 2005, began exporting vape and e-cigarettes and entered the US market in 2007, according to website Vaporesso.
Despite the ban on vaping devices, Duterte admitted he cannot do the same for cigarettes since these are being taxed.
“Why cannot we ban cigarettes? Why? Because we allow its (sic) manufacture and maybe the importation of tobacco. We allow it and we tax them,” he said.
The President, on Nov. 12, certified as urgent the proposed measure to increase taxes on heated tobacco products, along with alcoholic beverages, in a bid to generate additional funds for the Universal Health Care Act.
In his speech, the President also reiterated his verbal order to the police to arrest those who would be caught vaping in public.
The Philippine National Police, however, said the violators may be apprehended and brought to the nearest precinct to have their violation recorded, but they cannot be detained or asked to pay fines until a written order is out.
PNP spokesperson Brigadier General Bernard Banac also said vaping was allowed in designated smoking areas.
On the other hand, the police warned foreigners coming for the Southeast Asian Games that the restrictions on vaping in public applied to them as well.
Duterte’s order to ban the use of vaping products is the latest addition to his verbal directives issued without a written order from Malacañang.
The Department of Health said the girl had been using e-cigarettes for six months and was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 21 due to “sudden onset severe shortness of breath.”
Vaping devices have also been banned in 30 countries including Brazil, Singapore, Thailand, and India.
In the United States, some 42 people have died while 2,172 were sickened from the use of e-cigarettes as of Nov. 14. E-cigarettes, which vaporize a solution that users inhale, became popular as a less harmful alternative to regular cigarettes.
Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said he would file a bill regulating the sale of e-cigarettes, vape, and other electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems.
“We are already preparing a bill, which we will file soon, to regulate the packaging, advertisement, sale, and distribution of e-cigarettes in the country, including Juul [a cartridge-based e-cigarette],” the senator said.
He said he was concerned that e-cigarettes continue to be marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes.
Senator Pia Cayetano expressed concern over the lack of regulation.
“Now, we have products that are clearly harmful to the public, and they are unregulated,” Cayetano said.
Asked whether the executive department has the power to stop e-cigarette products from coming into the country without legislation, Cayetano said it is the inherent power of the executive branch to take immediate action if public health is at risk.
Surigao del Norte Rep. Ace Barbers, on the other hand, said e-cigarettes or vape were a safe alternative to smoking, noting that there have been fewer ill effects on health than cigarettes, which have caused millions of deaths worldwide.
Because of vape, there has been a steep decline in the number of tobacco smokers, he added.
The president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, meanwhile, said vape users who are arrested can challenge their arrest because the basis used by the police covers only conventional cigarettes.
But Duterte hit back at the IBP, saying he did not need to issue a new executive order to ban vaping since the product contains nicotine.
“I’m so pissed off…They don’t know anything,” Duterte said.
Also on Friday, the dean of the Lyceum of the Philippines University College of Law, Soledad Mawis, said the President’s warning to the courts not to interfere with his campaign against vaping is sending the wrong signals.
“It sends the wrong signals that he can order the judiciary and that’s not right. He cannot order the judiciary because of the concept of separation of powers of government,” Mawis said in an interview on radio dzMM.
“I will take it with a grain of salt only because I know he ought to know that he is a lawyer, that it’s not legally correct to take that position,” she added.
On Wednesday, Duterte said he would not heed a temporary restraining order from any court to stop the arrest of people vaping in public. With Rio N. Araja