Consumer groups assail ‘irresponsible, inaccurate’ statements on e-cigarettes

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LOCAL consumer groups on Monday denounced as “irresponsible and grossly inaccurate” the recent statements of a Department of Health official who said electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or “vapes”) contain the same chemicals used in cigarettes and can lead to more serious addiction to tobacco.

“It is both alarming and disappointing to hear an experienced physician and the highest health official of the land issue statements that directly contradict scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes are overwhelmingly less harmful than conventional cigarettes and can help smokers quit,” said Tom Pinlac, president of The Vapers Philippines.

“Instead of adding to the fear mongering, inaccurate information and propaganda on e-cigarettes, Health Secretary Paulyn B. Rosell-Ubial should read the numerous independent studies supported by reputable organizations and published in respected scientific journals that show e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes and are viable smoking cessation aids,” said Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (Pecia).

Speaking before students of Felipe G. Calderon High School in Tondo, Manila, on June 14, as part of the country’s observance of June as “National No Smoking Month”, Ubial said, “We released an advisory from the Food and Drug Administration that the products and components used in vape are still tobacco. So it still contains the 7,000 dangerous chemicals that are found in cigarettes.”

Ubial said groups promoting e-cigarettes are trying to mislead the public by marketing these as safe alternatives to cigarette smoking.

“They say that [e-cigarettes] are a safer alternative but we in the health sector say there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. So even if it has a small amount of tobacco, it is still not safe.”

According to Pinlac, Ubial blindly follows the World Health Organization’s (WHO) opposition to tobacco harm reduction without even considering the growing body of evidence supporting e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes.

“The WHO believes that the only way to reduce smoking is for smokers to ‘quit or die’, and is, therefore, highly skeptical of the potential for new technologies, such as e-cigarettes, to reduce smoking-related harms. Secretary Ubial has swallowed the WHO’s misguided position hook, line and sinker.”

E-cigarettes are around 95 percent less harmful than tobacco, an expert independent evidence review by Public Health England published in August 2015 concluded that e-cigarettes are around 95 percent less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people in the UK.

The Public Health England review found that almost all of the 2.6 million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain are current or ex-smokers, most of whom are using the devices to help them quit smoking or to prevent them going back to cigarettes. It also provides reassurance that very few adults and young people who have never smoked are becoming regular e-cigarette users (less than 1 percent in each group). Public Health England is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the UK Department of Health. 

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