Injunction brings FDA, DOH fight against vaping to court

By Analou De Vera

The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said that it will "fight" the Writ of Preliminary Injunction that was issued against the department with regards to its administrative order (AO) that regulates the Electronic Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems.

A customer blows a cloud of smoke from a vape pipe (AP Photo/Steve Helber / MANILA BULLETIN) A customer blows a cloud of smoke from a vape pipe (AP Photo/Steve Helber / MANILA BULLETIN)

"The FDA, represented by myself and the DOH represented by Secretary Duque, we have been sued by several companies. I think there is one in Manila; and one in Pasig, and last week we received the temporary injunction pending hearings," said Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo in a press briefing.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that the complainants "are challenging the constitutionality" of the administrative order 2019-0007, which was issued last June. The order was aimed at regulating electronic cigarettes and vaping devices. "They are saying that the DOH is out of bounds in issuing such AO," said the health chief.

"We are very upset with this development. But we will just have to fight in court for why we issued that administrative order. We made our position very clear, we're gonna fight it, we have our own lawyers to mount our legal defense when the hearings begin tomorrow," said Duque.

"Well it is a temporary setback, I must admit. But it does not preclude us from spreading the facts surrounding the use of such a harmful product. So we will go on with that," he added.

Due to the injunction, Domingo said that they have to stop the registration of electronic cigarette distributors, manufacturers, as well as its retailers.

"Since we got the injunction, we have to stop temporarily, so, our online website for registration for the vape industry players, we had to stop it," he said.

E-Cigarettes are not safe

The Philippine College of Physicians also reiterated that the use of electronic cigarettes is not safe.

"It will take time before we can see things from happening. But now we know that definitely, e-cigarette is not less harmful as they are saying. It is also very clear that e-cigarette definitely is not safe, in fact it can kill," said Dr. Maria Encarnita Limpin, secretary of Philippine College of Physicians.

Meanwhile, electronic cigarettes are being produced in ways that attract young people, said Dr. Susan Pineda-Mercado, special assistant to the president in global health initiatives.

"They claim that this is for quitting but it is actually produced, marketed, promoted in colorful packages with different kinds of flavors and in ways that attract our children. And this is where the global concern is coming from," she said.

Limpin urged the government to consider prohibiting such devices.

"We want to probably send the message that it is time for us, for the government to think about not just regulating...but what we are now pushing is probably prohibition," she said.

Report vaping related-illnesses

Duque urged medical practitioners to monitor and report cases that may be associated with the use of electronic cigarettes.

"In response to the epidemic in the United States (US), WHO (World Health Organization) has introduced International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 10 code U07.0, an international tool for classifying and monitoring diseases, to be used immediately for reporting of acutely ill patients who have used electronic cigarettes in the last 90 days, with no other plausible causes for illness," he said.

"In support of WHO’s efforts, the DOH urges all government and private hospitals, clinics and other health facilities to use proper codes for designating vaping-related disorders to allow existing health information systems to capture data on vaping-related disorders," he added.

The health chief has also called on users, particularly pregnant and young adults, to "stop immediately and refrain from vaping and using all forms of e-cigarettes."

"We do not support their claim of reduced harm. These products endanger the health of both users and non-users, and are clearly not meant for children,” he added.