Senate approves much-debated vaping bill


—PHOTO BY RICHARD A. REYES

After intense debate, a bill to regulate the sale and distribution of electronic cigarettes or vaping products was approved by the Senate at third and final reading on Thursday.

The vote was 19-2, with 2 abstentions, for Senate Bill 2239, which sets restrictions on the use and sale of vaporized nicotine products (VNP), including a limit age for its users.

But the approved version of the bill actually lowers the minimum age for authorized users from 21 to 18 and removes vape products from the regulatory powers of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and falls under the Department of Commerce and Industry. (DTI).

The bill’s most ardent critic, Senator Pia Cayetano, spoke after the vote to deliver a scathing speech on its passage.

“This Senate has authorized a provision in this bill which will now cede this obligation [of regulation] at the DTI. What is the activity of DTI in regulating health? To ensure that the flavors and scents of the products we now inhale [will be inhaled] by someone who is 18 years old and 1 day old? ” she said.

Four percent of Filipinos use vaping products, according to a Pulse Asia survey conducted Sept. 6-11 of 1,200 people across the country to better understand vaping and e-cigarette habits in the country. Its results were published in November.

Seventy-seven percent of Filipinos believe vaping products pose a serious health risk, 74% support a 100% “no-vaping policy” in public places, and 70% support a policy restricting access vapers and electronic cigarettes for people who are at least 21 years of age.

“Sin” products

In his speech, Cayetano noted how, during the 2019 deliberations on the then proposed amendments to the “Sin Tax” bills, Heated Tobacco Products (HTP) and NPVs were considered “sin products.” That Congress has decided to regulate through prohibitive tax charges.

She said that at the time, the Senate intended to limit users to those at least 21 years of age and limit flavors to plain tobacco and plain menthol, and that when discussing laws on the sin tax, Congress had always given regulatory power to the FDA.

“Here today we are witnesses of history. SB 2239 rescinds the safeguards that we, as Congress, as the Senate, have put in place. Why would we reduce it, Your Honors? ” she said.

Cayetano said the FDA has regulated other products that “have the potential to do a lot of good,” such as insect repellents, skin lotions, perfumes, sunscreens and essential oils.

She pointed out that the US FDA had banned some 55,000 vaping flavors because they “did not meet public health scrutiny.”

“It hurts me a lot, not to have been able to convince my colleagues, [that] just … allowing the FDA to do its job is not good enough for this Senate. It pains me that I can’t communicate as well because what I’m hearing, we want to give this product a chance to save lives, ”she said.

‘Critical yes’

Cayetano also regretted that his colleagues rejected his proposed amendments to the bill, including increasing the age limit for using vape to at least 21 years old.

Senatorial Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also gave a speech to clarify that his vote on the measure was a “critical yes”, to give smokers a chance to quit and have an alternative to electronic cigarettes and to vaping products.

“With my vote comes a caveat that if and when it is conclusively and concretely shown that vaping is as harmful as cigarettes, and that [vape products] rather involved our young people in drug addiction, I would come back to the Senate as a retiree to ask and beg you, my esteemed colleagues, to repeal this measure ”, he declared.

Drilon said his vote should not be taken to mean that he had changed his stance on smoking.

“I don’t need a general surgeon’s warning to say that smoking is bad for your health. Smoking kills, period, ”he said.

Drilon also noted how over the past two decades the government had used “coercion and coercion as [its] main weapons against smoking.

“Maybe it’s time to use persuasion,” he said.

Senator Joel Villanueva said that if he had voted in favor of the bill, it was “with serious reservations” that he had pledged to explain himself at length in writing.

Executive order

In February 2020, President Duterte signed Executive Decree No. 106 ordering a ban on the manufacture, distribution, marketing and sale of unregistered vaping products and their use in public places.

Bill 9007, or the Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Bill, which seeks to regulate the manufacture, sale and use of less harmful alternatives to cigarettes such as vapes and the HTP, has been approved by the House of Representatives. in May.

The bill prohibits, among other things, the sale to minors of vaping and HTP products; the use of these products in all enclosed public places (except in designated areas), schools, hospitals, government offices and facilities intended for minors; and the sale or distribution of these products within 100 meters of the perimeter of a school, playground or other facility frequented by minors. —With a report from Inquirer Research

Sources: Investigator Archives, congress.gov.ph, Pulse Asia

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