DOH opposes anti-health vape regulation bill

December 19, 2021, 8:12 pm

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) strongly opposes the blatant disregard of public health in the recently approved Senate Bill 2239 (Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Regulation Act) that seeks to further expand access to vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products.

The bill is retrogressive and contains several provisions that contradict public health goals and international standards and undermines the country's progress in tobacco control, according to a DOH news release on Sunday.

Nineteen senators on Thursday approved the bill seeking to regulate the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use, and communication of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products.

By lowering the age of access to vapor products from 21 to 18 years old, allowing flavorings, and permitting advertising and sponsorship strategies, the bill exposes the youth to harmful and addictive substances by making vapor products enticing and easily accessible.

The DOH maintains that vape products are harmful and not risk-free and should be regulated as health products due to their toxic substances and effects.

Vape liquids and its emission contain chemicals such as nicotine, propylene glycol, carbonyls, and carbon monoxide that are either addictive, toxic or can cause cancer.

Additionally, studies have shown vape use increases the risk of using other known addictive substances such as cigarette, alcohol, and even marijuana.

There is also growing evidence of the harmful effects of using vapes, both to the user and those exposed to its emissions, including its potential to cause cardiovascular diseases, respiratory problems, and explosion injuries.

The DOH said that the approval of Senate Bill 2239 puts the Filipino youth at risk.

The agency cited the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, which showed that the prevalence of using electronic cigarettes is increasing among the Filipino youth.

Data showed a 110-percent increase in vape use in just four years -- from 11.7 percent in 2015 to 24.6 percent in 2019.

A recent study conducted by the Philippine Pediatric Society and the Department of Education also showed that the age of initiation of using electronic cigarettes starts at 10 to 15 years old.

The DOH added that this is concerning because several studies noted that the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which is involved in executive and decision-making functions, continues to mature until about the age of 25.

This bill predisposes adolescents and young adults to be more susceptible in initiating smoking and subsequent nicotine addiction.

An overwhelming majority of Filipinos support stringent measures in protecting themselves from the harms of using and exposure to electronic cigarettes, according to a Pulse Asia Survey conducted from September 6 to 11.

In particular, 74 percent support a 100-percent cigarette-or-vape free policy in public spaces, 70 percent support a policy that restricts accessibility of electronic cigarettes at 21 years old and above, and 62 percent support a bill that will ban the availability and accessibility of flavors that appeal to the youth.

The DOH explained that various laws that have protected Filipinos from the harms of vapor products and heated tobacco products stand to be watered down due to Senate Bill 2239.

These laws include RA 11346 and 11467, which mandate the regulation of the products by the Food and Drug Administration, imposition of taxes, prohibition of access to persons below 21 years old, application of graphic health warnings that is in compliance with RA 10643 or the Graphic Health Warnings law, and prohibition of flavors other than plain tobacco or menthol.

In addition, Executive Order 106, series of 2020, expanded the provisions under Executive Order 26, series of 2017, by including prohibition of public use except in designated smoking/vaping area, expansion of the smoking cessation program, restrictions in advertising, sponsorships and promotions, restrictions in youth access, and expansion of the smoke-free task force to include electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and other novel tobacco products.

The DOH enjoins Filipinos, public health advocates, and champions of health to stay united in the goal of protecting people from harmful vapor products. (PR)