TOBACCO HARM REDUCTION. Local tobacco harm reduction advocate Peter Paul Dator speaks during the 5th Asia Harm Reduction Forum at the Manila Hotel on Saturday (Oct. 29, 2022). During the event, the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates signed “The Manila Declaration-2022” urging the governments in Asia to support the use of alternative modalities and instruments that can help reduce the harms of combustible and unsafe tobacco products. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – A group composed of tobacco harm reduction advocates called on Asian countries, including the Philippines, to support the use of alternative modalities and instruments that can help reduce the harms of combustible and unsafe tobacco products.

During the 5th Asia Harm Reduction Forum at the Manila Hotel on Saturday, the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) signed “The Manila Declaration-2022” urging the governments in Asia to adopt science-based regulatory frameworks on the manufacture, importation, sale, and consumption of devices and ingredients that are safer alternatives to tobacco such as vapes and other electronic devices.

The forum which was organized by the Harm Reduction Alliance of the Philippines (HARAP) and The Vapers Philippines (VapersPh) as the Philippine government prepares the implementing rules and regulation for the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, also known as the Vape Law, which recently lapsed into law.

The group noted that the over-restrictive government policies on the use of vapes and other similar products including e-cigarettes are a contradiction to the intent and objective of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Treaty.

“We, the consumers of safer nicotine products and those adults who currently smoke, ought to be the principal beneficiaries of enlightened, science-based regulatory frameworks allowing us access to these life-saving technologies,” the group said in the manifesto.

“Instead, we continue to be marginalized, ignored, denigrated, and attacked, our choices restricted, and our rights denied and our lives and health are negatively impacted by the continuing failure of WHO and its funders to follow its own mandates or to consider the science,” it added.

Peter Dator of VapersPh said while their movement supports laws that would set the quality and standard of vape products and e-cigarettes, access to these devices should not be too prohibitive that users would be forced to revert to cigarette smoking.

“It is very ironic because while the government is taking all the necessary steps to reduce the health risks caused by cigarette smoking, they are also throwing all the stumbling blocks to discourage people from accessing safer alternatives such as vapes and e-cigarettes,” he said.

He added that his group is hoping for the regulatory policies to be crafted based on the new Vape Law that would encourage people to adopt safer alternatives to stop cigarette smoking.

Dator said government policymakers should defer to well-documented studies proving that increasing cigarette taxes did not do much to reduce the number of Filipinos who smoke tobacco.

CAPHRA said the World Health Organization-FCTC and its country delegates should follow the science and evidence around tobacco harm reduction and recognize the people’s rights to access alternative products that can help them stop the habit of smoking cigarettes.

The group said vaping is dramatically safer than cigarettes and has helped millions quit smoking.

“Vaping is not smoking. It uses electronic devices to generate nicotine-containing vapor without burning tobacco. Governments charged with protecting public health should welcome that, not discourage it,” the group said in the manifesto.

CAPHRA is an alliance of Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates in the Asian region which seeks to educate, advocate, and represent the right of adult alternative nicotine consumers to access and use products that reduce harm from tobacco use. (With reports from [OJT] Anne Lorraine Bustamante/Irish Marie Caidoy/PNA)