Veto of the vaping bill | Opinion of the applicant

A bill that endangers the health of an estimated 2 million young Filipinos awaits President Duterte’s signature. Health experts and educators are now in a race against time to ask the president to veto the measure, which lowers the age of access to vaping and e-cigarette products from 21 to 18. , before it soon becomes law.

“Vapes and e-cigarettes are harmful and not without risk,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during a webinar hosted by the nonprofit legal organization ImagineLaw last Thursday. Duque said vapes and e-cigarettes contain “highly toxic, addictive and carcinogenic” chemicals like conventional cigarettes, and can increase the risk of heart, respiratory and cardiovascular disease. “[The measure] is contrary to public health objectives. It is a retrograde policy that undermines the country’s progress in tobacco prevention and control.

The Department of Education (DepEd) also released a statement taking a stand against the proposed regulation of non-combustible nicotine delivery systems bill, which it says will weaken Republic Act No. 11467 and the Executive Order No. 106, both signed by Mr. Duterte. in 2020 which already set the age of access to vapes and e-cigarettes at 21. In addition to lowering the age limit, the bill transfers regulatory authority to the Food and Drug Administration’s Department of Commerce and Industry, allows online sales and relaxes bans on vaping flavors at the beyond menthol and tobacco.

The DepEd cited a study conducted by the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) before the pandemic which showed that 6.7% or 11,500 learners in grades 7-9 who were surveyed had tried or used e-cigarettes. The study further revealed the main reasons why these products were popular: online accessibility (32%), variety of flavors (22%) and the belief that they were safer than tobacco (17%). .

Lawmakers supporting the measure say vapes and e-cigarettes are “less harmful” than regular cigarettes and that regulating the use of these products could help reduce the country’s smoking rate. “Can you imagine how many lives would have been saved if instead of smoking they had switched to these types of products?” said Senator Ralph Recto.

But are they really safe? Like regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vapes also produce harmful second-hand smoke through their vapor plumes. Experts have pointed out that e-liquids or e-liquids used in vapes contain harmful and toxic chemicals that can affect the small airways in the lungs. These chemicals include nicotine, which is addictive because when inhaled it causes the release of dopamine in the brain; acetone; ethylbenzene (used as a solvent for paints); and rubidium (commonly used in fireworks to produce purple colors). Health experts have pointed out that nicotine, for example, can affect the development of the brain, which doesn’t fully develop until your mid-twenties. Thus, exposing young people to nicotine-containing products could affect their learning, impair impulse control, cause mood disorders, put them at risk for substance abuse, or cause lung damage associated with EVALI or electronic cigarette or vape.

In 2019, the Philippines reported its first case of EVALI in a 16-year-old woman from Visayas who was a “dual user” – she had been using e-cigarettes for six months while consuming regular cigarettes. Then the Undersecretary of Health, Rolando Enrique Domingo, said that “no e-cigarette product should be accessible to young children and adolescents, who are particularly susceptible to the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine. J urges non-users not to even try e-cigarettes at all.

The bill, as warned by the president of the Philippine Medical Association, Dr. Benito Atienza, will not solve the smoking problem in the country because instead of tightening regulations, it will even relax them and put young people at risk by encouraging them to adopt a harmful habit. He added that the bill is anti-poor, anti-youth and anti-health, and will discredit the government’s progress in tobacco prevention and control over the past decade.

“Before we take action, let’s try to review our history and what smoking has done to the elderly population,” said Dr. Riz Gonzales, president of the SPP’s tobacco advocacy group. According to the Ministry of Health, 87,600 Filipinos die each year from tobacco-related diseases, with the government spending 188 billion pesos a year on health care expenses. “By removing this ban, you allow a Pandora’s box to open [and] drop our children and say sorry after… ang bisyo ay bisyo hindi ‘yan essential product.

Exposing young people to a vice that puts their health at risk despite numerous studies showing the harms of nicotine addiction is contrary to the country’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals. Science only points to one course of action for the president: to veto the vaping bill now.

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