PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac. (File photo)

MANILA -- In compliance with the government crackdown on the use of e-cigarettes or vapes, the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday said it has arrested a total of 243 users of vapes and e-cigarettes in public places.

"As of Sunday, a total of 243 persons were apprehended in 2,878 separate operations nationwide against the use of vapes and e-cigarette products," PNP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac told reporters during a press conference held at Camp Crame.

According to Banac, Central Visayas has the highest number of violators with 195 individuals apprehended during a total of 280 operations in the area.

He said 318 pieces of vape gadgets and 666 pieces of vape juices were confiscated during said operations

The PNP spokesman said after police blotters were filed, those apprehended were immediately released.

Banac said the crackdown is pursuant to Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act and the Republic Act 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act.

In Metro Manila, National Capital Region Police (NCRPO) chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said the NCRPO has set off simultaneous operations within the areas of responsibility of its five districts which led to the confiscation of vapes and even closure of vaping stores.

Out of 108 vape stores visited by the NCRPO operatives, 72 have been closed.

PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa earlier clarified that those who will be arrested in the nationwide crackdown on the use of electronic cigarettes, popularly known as vapes, in public places will not be detained or punished.

He said a vape user, who will be arrested will be brought to a police station for blotter purposes and will be released afterward.

He said it is due to the pending issuance of another executive order indicating the punishment for those who will be caught using vapes in public places.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered law enforcers to arrest individuals who are vaping in public. He issued the directive following the first reported case of an illness related to vaping in the country.

On November 15, the DOH confirmed that a 16-year-old girl from Central Visayas who used e-cigarettes for six months suffered from E-cigarette or Vape-Associated Lung Injury (EVALI).

The girl, who complained of “sudden-onset severe shortness of breath,” met the case criteria of EVALI upon evaluation, based on the guidelines of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (PNA)