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Groups urge Marcos to veto Vape bill

LEADERS of nongovernment organizations asked President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to veto the Vape bill after the president exercised his veto power on House Bill 7575.

In a letter to Marcos dated July 22, 2022, leaders of the Action for Economic Reforms (AER), HealthJustice Philippines, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (Seatca) and ImagineLaw, stressed that the Vape Bill goes against existing laws and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control by World Health Organization (WHO). The latter is an international treaty that the Philippines has been a party to since 2005.

The groups are asking Marcos to scrap the bicameral bill of Senate Bill 2239 and House Bill 9007.

“Like you did in vetoing HB 7575 (entitled “An Act Establishing the Bulacan Airport City Special Economic Zone and Freeport, Province of Bulacan And Appropriating the Funds”) demonstrate your strong political will,” the letter read. The letter was signed by: AER Coordinator Filomeno S. Sta. Ana III; Seatca Executive Director Edgardo Ulysses N. Dorotheo; ImagineLaw Executive Director Sophia Monica V. San Luis; and, HealthJustice Philippines Managing Director Jacky Sarita.

“Show that you care for the welfare of the youth, the future of our nation. Veto the Vape bill and prevent more young non-smokers from being introduced to nicotine addiction,” they wrote.

The letter was also supported by the Healthy Philippines Alliance, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, the Child Rights Network and Social Watch Philippines,

SC ruling

The advocates reiterated that the Vape bill poses significant health risks on the Filipino people, on the heels of a pandemic that ravaged the health care system.

They noted that in recent months, two landmark decisions upholding tobacco control have been made worldwide.

On June 13, the Supreme Court of the Philippines ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the “competence and mandate to ensure safety, efficacy, purity and quality of health products,” including tobacco products.

Last June 23, the United States FDA ordered the e-cigarette company Juul to remove all its products from US markets, citing that it may have played a “disproportionate role in the rise of teen vaping.” The US FDA noted that Juul provided insufficient and conflicting data on the potentially harmful chemicals in its products.

These two decisions affirmed the health risks from vape products and the primacy of the FDA’s role to regulate tobacco only strengthen the rationale to veto the Vape bill, according to the letter to Marcos.

The Vape bill, transmitted to the Office of the President last June 24, waters down existing restrictions on the use of vape and heated tobacco products and puts our youth at risk, the leaders said in the letter.

Dilutes RA 11346

According to the groups, SB 2239 and HB 9007 will transfer regulatory jurisdiction of e-cigarette and heated tobacco products from the FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

It seeks to lower the minimum age of access to such products from 21 years old to 18 years old as well as allow flavors of vaporized products in addition to plain tobacco and plain menthol that target the youth.

The bicameral bill also allow sales to non-smokers and permit online sales and marketing.

“Rather than reduce harm, the Vape bill will introduce harm to the young and act as a gateway to addiction to other substances such as alcohol and illegal drugs,” the advocates said in their letter to the president.

They explained that the provisions in the Vape bill dilute Republic Act 11346, which was passed in 2019 and introduced important regulatory measures to protect the youth from e-cigarettes. Some of these measures included: mandating the FDA as the primary government body responsible for ensuring the safety of Vape products; increasing the minimum age of access to 21 years old; and, banning of flavors other than plain menthol and plain tobacco.                  

“We stand firm with the Department of Health, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Education, Department of Finance and 59 medical societies led by the Philippine Medical Association in vehemently opposing the vape bill, in our plea to prevent a new vaping epidemic,” the advocates said.

Image credits: AP file photo



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