As the country continues to face Covid-19, a former health chief stressed the need for the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “to guard public health by regulating tobacco products that make Filipinos susceptible to diseases.”
“That’s why I believe that the Supreme Court [SC] decision that affirms the power of the DOH and the FDA over tobacco products is providential,” Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, who is also a trustee of HealthJustice Philippines, a nongovernment organization, said as he appealed to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to listen to medical societies and veto the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act or the controversial Vape Bill.
“I appeal to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to please listen to the DOH, the Department of Education, and medical societies in the Philippines to veto the Vape Bill,” Dr. Galvez Tan said.
He cited that the World Health Organization has time and again mentioned that smokers face a higher risk (40 to 50 percent) of developing severe diseases and death from Covid-19.
BY giving the DOH and FDA the power to regulate the “health aspect” of tobacco products, he said, they can come up with additional supportive regulations to further lower smoking prevalence in the country which in turn will result in fewer Filipinos suffering from tobacco-related deaths and diseases.
“At the same time, this will reduce the burden on our health-care system which is still adjusting to the ever-evolving demands of Covid-19. It is therefore perplexing that with this Supreme Court decision underscoring the expertise of DOH and FDA over products that affect health, Congress pushed for a bill that removes the jurisdiction of DOH and FDA over vapes,” he said.
Dr. Galvez Tan stressed that no one is in a better position to “provide guidance” on public health than the country’s own medical professionals.
“Instead, I appeal to President Marcos Jr. to invest in DOH and FDA for them to be able to enforce the regulatory powers over tobacco products and vapes and come up with policies that solidify and consolidate the regulatory powers of both agencies,” Dr. Galvez Tan said.
Strong health system
ULTIMATELY, he added, a strong DOH and FDA will mean a strong public health system able to “withstand any public health challenge.”
Meanwhile, Barbara McAneny, President of the American Medical Association, said: “Given the dramatic rise in e-cigarette use amongst young people in the last year alone, it is very clear that we must all do everything we can to help reverse this epidemic.”
Another health expert in the US also said that the younger the developing brain is exposed to nicotine, the stronger and more rapid the addiction.
“The earlier you become addicted, the harder it is to quit,” said Jonathan Winickoff, Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and American Academy of Pediatrics Director of Translational Research.
Dr. Galvez Tan also emphasized that the SC decision on the DOH vs. Philippine Tobacco Institute is a “historic” win for public health.
“This should have been settled a long time ago no thanks to the tobacco industry who questioned the authority of the FDA over tobacco products which have long been scientifically proven to kill people,” he said.
Image credits: Ilkin Guliyev _ Dreamstime.com