Duterte told to veto vape bill to save the youth

Former Health Secretary Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan has expressed his strong support for medical groups who have called on President  Duterte to veto the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act, or the Vape Bill, to protect minors and help save lives.

According to Galvez Tan, the bill cannot be considered a legacy of President Duterte since he likened vaping to the use of cigarettes and tobacco.

President Duterte made a strong stand against vape proliferation in the country in 2019 when he said that these products are “toxic” and that the government has “the power to issue measures to protect public health and interest.”

As a result of this statement, two laws were passed strictly regulating e-cigarettes by raising the age of access to vapes from 18 to 21, restricting vape flavors to menthol and tobacco, and putting regulatory power over the product under Food and Drug Administration.

However, the Sen. Vape Bill (SB 2239) of Senator Ralph Recto attempts to reverse these restrictions by lowering access to vapes to 18, allowing more flavors, and even providing looser policies on the use of vapes in public.

Galvez Tan, trustee of HealthJustice Philippines, echoed the medical groups saying that claim is false that the Vape Bill “will finally regulate vaping because vaping has always been regulated by the FDA through Republic Act 11467 and Executive Order 106.”

Former health secretaries

Also, seven former health secretaries have joined the call for the Senate to junk the Vape Bill.

“The Vape Bill is a huge step backward in protecting Filipinos’ health. It is a danger, especially in a pandemic,” according to former health secretaries Dr. Alfredo Bengzon, Dr. Esperanza Cabral, Dr. Manuel Dayrit, Dr. Enrique Ona, Dr. Carmencita Reodica, Dr. Paulyn Ubial, and Galvez Tan.

The former health secretaries noted that the Vape Bill relaxes the provisions of Republic Act 11467, an existing law that strictly regulates the products. The bill lowers the age of access to vapes and e-cigarettes from 21 to 18 and transfers regulatory jurisdiction from the Food and Drug Administration to Department of Trade and Industry.

The bill also reverses a ban on flavors (except menthol and tobacco) and allows sales online.

“By lowering the age of access from 21 to 18, the Vape Bill exposes more of our youth, those who are still in senior high or about to enter college, to HTPs [Heated Tobacco Products] and e-cigarettes,” said Galvez-Tan. “Why are we exposing them to this risk when under our laws, we are already protecting them?”

For her part, Reodica said that the senators should listen to health experts “at this crucial time.”

“The medical community already explained that nicotine exposure at a young age impairs maximum development of the brain, making the youth vulnerable to engaging in harmful habits that are hard to break,” Reodica added.

Meanwhile, Ubial said that “data on the use of vapes and e-cigarettes among the youth show that we should be strengthening, and not relaxing our policies on these products.”

Harmful effects

The Department of Health, together with the World Health Organization, and medical societies, warned the public on the harmful effects of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

“Electronic cigarettes and HTPs are sold in the market as alternatives for smokers trying to wean themselves off tobacco. Some studies claim that they contain fewer toxic chemicals and are less harmful alternatives to cigarettes,” said Secretary Francisco T. Duque III.

“We do not support their claim of reduced harm. These products endanger the health of both users and non-users, and are clearly not meant for children,” Duque stressed.

Image credits: Dede Avez_Pexel.com

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