People's Domain

E-cigarettes and Heated Tobacco Products are Harmful; Keep them Off our Children

E-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) are neither safe nor beneficial and must be strictly regulated to ensure they do not get into the hands of the Filipino children, reiterated advocacy groups in a joint media statement.

Citing evidence from international studies showing that e-cigarettes and HTPs not only fail to aid in smoking cessation but actually encourage young people to get into smoking, advocacy groups HealthJustice Philippines and Child Rights Coalition Asia called for the regulation of these products by health and health-related agencies, particularly the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The claims about the supposed safety and purported benefits of vapes and e-cigarettes are an outright lie. These claims are taken straight from the playbook that the industry has long been employing: that is, downplay the dangers of your product and bloat its benefits, real or imagined,” said Atty. Benedict Nisperos, Legal Consultant at HealthJustice. “We cannot allow the industry to continue with their lies. It is the future of today’s children that are at stake,” he added.

The groups listed three facts to remember about these gadget-enabled cigarettes:

  1. Vapes and cigarettes are harmful. According to the US Center for Disease Control, studies have found that e- cigarettes and vapes contain nicotine, a harmful and addictive ingredient. Unfortunately, some manufacturers do not disclose the nicotine content of their products. A study has found that some e-cigarettes marketed as having zero nicotine do contain this harmful ingredient. Defective e-cigarette batteries have likewise caused explosions. Moreover, some children have reportedly been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid.
  2. E-cigarettes and HTPs do not help people quit. They simply make smokers switch from one form (traditional) to another.
  3. E-cigarettes and HTPs are not approved by the US FDA as smoking cessation tools. Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) approved by the US FDA undergo a rigorous process and are subjected to clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. Vapes and e-cigarettes have not undergone such processes.

“The harmful profile of e-cigarettes and vapes necessitates regulation by no less than health and health-related agencies. After all, smoking—whether using traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes or HTPs—is fundamentally a health issue,” said Nisperos.

He added: “Since there are false assertions that vapes and e-cigarettes are effective aides in smoking cessation, it becomes all the more important that FDA and DOH oversee the entry of these products in the market. These agencies know the science behind tobacco manufacturing; hence, we will be assured that public health and safety will come first before the commercial prospects of these products.”

Republic Act 11467 signed in January of this year regulates the sale, manufacture, marketing, distribution and importation of unregistered electronic nicotine devices and other novel tobacco products. It requires that all e-liquid solutions, electronic cigarettes, and vaping devices be registered with the FDA. The implementing rules and regulations of the said law are currently being prepared.

Besides their benefits still in question, studies have found that flavored vapes and e-cigarettes lure adolescents to smoke. Many of the flavors are sweet, candy, and fruity—all of which appeal to children.

“Clearly, these industries are targeting children. In fact, our first case of electronic cigarette or vape-associated lung injury (Evali) in the country involved a child.1 We cannot afford to have more cases like that,” said Amihan Abueva, Regional Executive Director at Child Rights Coalition Asia.

Some countries in Asia have strong regulations on the use of e-cigarettes and HTPs among children and young people.

“Strict regulation and even prohibition of e-cigarettes and HTPs is important to safeguard the health of young people and prevent them from becoming addicted to nicotine,” Abueva said.

In the Philippines, there are approximately 360,000 Filipino youth who tried using e-cigarettes according to a 2015 report of the World Health Organization and the Department of Health. Unfortunately, e-cigarettes and HTP use by young children has become more challenging for parents to monitor. A study by the University of California San Francisco has found that parents are less aware when their children vape than when they smoked.2

“We cannot allow the Filipino people, especially our children, to continue being victims of the industry’s marketing tactics. We would like to point out that our health authorities who are in the position to protect our children, should not allow them to become the targets of companies or individuals that peddle unsafe and potentially deadly products,” Abueva said.

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ABOUT HEALTHJUSTICE HealthJustice is a civil society organization composed of doctors, lawyers, former government officials, public health practitioners, and policy specialists advocating reforms in public health policies and governance. In particular, we have been involved in pushing for tobacco control measures and mainstreaming health promotion under the Universal Health Care system.

ABOUT CHILD RIGHTS COALITION ASIA (CRC Asia) Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia) is a regional network of child rights and human rights organizations working together to be a strong voice for child rights in the region by leading the strengthening of child rights movements, promoting innovative programs, and advocating better policies for and with children.

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