Vape Bill a betrayal of public health – law group

“The Vape Bill betrays public health. It is an industry bill that highly favors vape and e-cigarette manufacturers to the detriment of public health.”

This was the remark of law group ImagineLaw on Thursday on the proposed House Bill 9007 which passed the House of Representatives on second reading yesterday.

The said bill, formally known as the Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Act, seeks to regulate the sale, packaging, advertisement, and promotion of electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs). These products are often referred to as ‘vapes’ and ‘e-cigarettes’.

However, “the bill goes against the overwhelming opinion of medical and health professionals by declaring that vapes and e-cigarettes are harm reduction tools or reduced risk products compared to cigarettes,” according to Atty. Sophia San Luis, Executive Director of ImagineLaw.

“No less than the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians  (PCCP) have declared that there is no sufficient evidence to claim that these novel products are healthier than cigarettes or are effective harm reduction and smoking cessation tools,” said San Luis. ”In fact, the first documented case of  e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) reported in the Visayas points to the real dangers of these products,” she also said.

The law group also said that Congress failed to consider the inputs of health authorities and experts in the deliberation of the bill. “The bill disregarded the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) position that ENDS/ENNDS and HTPs have adverse health impact, by stating in its declaration of policy that regulating these products is a harm reduction measure that forms part of the country’s public health strategy,” San Luis said, citing the interpellation of Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, a critic of the bill.

The proposed measure does not align with the country’s obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), added the law group. The Philippines ratified the WHO FCTC in 2005.

“As a State-party to this historical and landmark treaty, the Philippine government is duty-bound to uphold its provisions, and prioritize  public health over tobacco industry interest and profit,” said San Luis.

San Luis also warned that the bill, once passed into law, will reverse current measures that protect the public from the dangers of e-cigarettes and vapes.

“It will roll back the age restriction set by the FDA for the sale of these novel products from 21 years old to 18 years old,” San Luis said. “It will also go against President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong policy denouncing the harms of these products. It will also embolden vape and e-cigarette makers to market their products as ‘healthier products’,” remarked San Luis.

Executive Order No. 26 (which established smoke-free environments) was signed by President Duterte in 2017, and declares that ‘public health takes precedence over any commercial and business interest’, the law group pointed out. “A later policy, Executive Order No. 106, recognized that ‘users and bystanders exposed to emissions from the use of ENDS/ENNDS, HTPs, and other novel tobacco products are at similar risk of respiratory illness, cardiovascular diseases, addiction, cancer, neurodegeneration, brain development retardation, anxiety, and sexual and reproductive dysfunctions, among others’,” San Luis explained. “EO 106 also recognized that ‘ENDS/ENNDS are unlikely to be harmless, such that long term use is expected to increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, possible cardiovascular disease, as well as some other diseases related with smoking’,” the lawyer remarked.

“It is clear that the Philippine policy is to give priority to public health and reaffirm the right of all people to the highest standards of health,” San Luis declared. “The Vape Bill directly contradicts this policy and reverses life-saving policies already in place.”

“Our lawmakers should prioritize public health over profit — especially during this ongoing global pandemic,” San Luis urged. “Kapag naisabatas ang Vape Bill na ito, talo ang mga Pilipino. Ang industriya ng vape at e-cigarettes lamang ang panalo sa panukalang batas na ito,” she concluded. #

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