To avoid the incidence of exploding electronic cigarette or e-cigarette device there’s a need to regulate the relatively new but a slowly growing vaping industry in the Philippines.
Like any other products, the manufacture of e-cigarettes and its parts, including the battery and vaping juice, must undergo quality control and meet safety standards, Heanage Mitchell of factasia.org told reporters at a press briefing in Quezon City on Monday.
However, Mitchell insisted that incidents of exploding e-cigarettes are “isolated cases and completely avoidable” through proper regulation of the product.
Factasia.org, an international consumer welfare-advocacy group, called for a stringent measure on the manufacture, sale, and distribution of e-cigarettes and vaping juice, as it reiterated its position against the banning of e-cigarettes.
Mitchell said government regulation will ensure the safety of the products, adding that educating the e-cigarette user on proper handling and use of the product, particularly its battery, will prevent accidents.
From smoking to vaping
The increasing demand for e-cigarettes and its juice because of its popularity as a safer alternative to cigarette smoking is expected to give the local e-cigarette industry a boost, Mitchell said.
Vaping is different from cigarette smoking. Using battery power, an electric coil is ignited to heat a liquid in a small tube, commonly called vaping juice, to generate the vapor that the user inhales.
It does not involve combustion, which is what happens in lighting cigarettes.
Vaping, he said, is a safer alternative to smoking cigarette because the e-cigarette juice has no nicotine and it does not produce tar that causes cancer.
Cigarettes contain at least 3,000 different chemicals, while the juice used in e-cigarettes only has five chemicals – including propylene glycol, glycerin, water, food grade flavor and in some cases, pharmaceutical grade nicotine.
Conspiracy against vaping
Together with Nancy Sutthoff, a member of the Board of Trustee at the New Zealand-based Aotearoa Vape Community Advocacy (AVCA) who is also the Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator for the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations (INNCO), Mitchell said there are forces out there to discredit vaping.
Vaping is regulated in New Zealand, according to Sutthoff, but it took e-cigarette users or vapers to fight the wrong perception about vaping and won the battle through government regulation.
She said the vaping community in the Philippines should fight the wrong information being spread to discredit vaping.
In the US, for instance, Sutthoff said there appears to be a conspiracy to counter any tobacco harm reduction method, including the use of e-cigarettes, which is credited for the decline in cigarette smoking incidents in several countries where e-cigarette is regulated such as Japan, Korea, New Zealand, England, and Denmark.
“In the US, there is an ongoing campaign against tobacco harm reduction, including e-cigarettes, basically, promoting abstinence, to fight nicotine addiction and smoking habit,” she said.
She said the isolated cases of exploding e-cigarettes have been highlighted by some quarters to give a bad or negative impression of vaping or the use of e-cigarette as “unsafe” or “dangerous”. Some quarters are also insisting that use of e-cigarettes is not a proven safer alternative to cigarette smoking,
“It is part of a conspiracy to get bad information out about vaping,” said Sutthoff.
Citing a case of exploding e-cigarette in Florida, she said the user used a battery that is not prescribed for a particular e-cigarette, likening it to using a battery charger to charge the wrong cellular phone, thus causing the unit to explode.
“In New Zealand, there is a regulation that you (as consumer) have to show that you know how to use it. Obviously, they do not do that in the United States,” said Sutthoff.
Pharmaceutical companies that produce nicotine cession therapy, offering them as an alternative to cigarette smoking or cure to nicotine addiction, although not necessarily to break the habit of smoking itself, are the ones to gain in banning e-cigarettes.
Mitchell and Suthoff said nicotine cession therapy is a multi-billion industry that offers no real solution to nicotine addiction or smoking habit, unlike e-cigarette, which has been proven to effectively reduce smoking incidence in some countries and is slowly making a dent in the Philippines.
Although there is no empirical data yet, visibly, Mitchell said more and more cigarette smokers are shifting to e-cigarette and the increasing number of vaping shops in the country proves the growing local market for e-cigarette and vaping juice.
Mitchell and Sutthoff also cautioned policymakers to consider a proposal to treat e-cigarette use or vaping as cigarette and hence, should be covered by the law regulating tobacco.
Republic Act No. 9211, also known as theTobacco Regulation Act of 2003, does not cover e-cigarette use because there is no tobacco in the vaping juices and using e-cigarette is not smoking, but vaping.
“Technically, there is no tobacco in e-cigarettes and hence, vaping should not be covered by the Tobacco Control Act,” said Sutthoff.
The Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 is an omnibus law regulating smoking in public places, tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and sales restrictions, among other requirements.
The TRAIN law had caused the prices of e-cigarettes to almost double in recent months.
“There is no tobacco, no tar, and no burning. To classify this as a tobacco product is ridiculous,” he said.
Asked whether they support the move to regulate e-cigarette use in the Philippines, Mitchell said the government is mandated to put in place regulation for safety and precaution in the use of all products, underscoring the need to promote the right and welfare of consumers at all times.
“Absolutely, we are for regulation. We have to have regulation. Water, beer, juices – we need to regulate them – all products, basically, need to be regulated,” Mitchell added.