By Genalyn Kabiling and Analou de Vera
In a bid to protect public health and interest, President Duterte has banned the use and importation of vaping products or electronic cigarettes in the country.
The President likewise directed law enforcement authorities to arrest people using vape products, which he claimed is dangerous to the health of the public.
“I will ban it. I will ban the use and importation. I hope everybody is listening. Paki-relay na lang. You now why? Because it is toxic and government has the power to issue measures to protect public health and public interest,” Duterte said during a press conference in Malacañang Tuesday night.
Duterte warned the public to stop vaping or risk being arrested.
“Smoking is dangerous. Vaping is also dangerous, I am banning it. If you are smoking now, you will be arrested,” he said.
He added that vape products do not only contain deadly and toxic nicotine but other chemicals that “we do not know.” These products, the President said have not even passed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards.
“Itong vaping sabi nila electronic. Don’t give me that sh*t. Better stop it because I will order your arrest if you do it in a room. I am ordering the law enforcement agencies to arrest anybody vaping in public,” he added.
Following the directive of the President, the Philippine National Police (PNP) ordered a nationwide crackdown on the use of electronic cigarettes
Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, PNP officer-in-charge, said he ordered all police commanders to increase police visibility in all public places, particularly the vicinity of schools, and to run after those who would dare to vape in no-smoking areas.
Aside from Executive Order 26 which bans smoking in public places, there are also local ordinances that ban the same. In Metro Manila, thousands have been arrested for smoking in public since July last year.
Gamboa said EO 26 and local ordinances can be used to run after vapers since it is similar to smoking in public.
Policemen were also instructed to confiscate e-cigarettes from those who would be caught using them in public places.
“I also instructed my commanders to start visiting local e-cigarettes stores in their respective areas of jurisdiction,” said Gamboa.
“The objective is to remind or warn the owners to take the initiative of warning their clients not to use them in public,” he added.
The President also directed the customs authorities to prevent the importation of the vaping products into the country. “Importation is not allowed,” he said.
READ MORE: PNP starts crackdown on vaping
Clean air a right
An executive order on the vaping ban will be issued shortly, Duterte added.
“We are very happy and excited about this EO. We feel strongly about it,” said Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo during a media forum in Manila yesterday.
Domingo said they are hopeful that the provisions of the EO will be comprehensive.
“The DOH and the Food and Drug Administration want is to regulate contents. Meaning those classified as ‘poisons’ shouldn’t be there. We also don’t want them to be sold to minors. We don’t want them at the hands of those less than 18 years old because they are addicting,” he said.
“We also do not want vaping in public. We want to have clean air as that is our right. We also do not want it advertised, especially if they are geared towards children. We want to ban flavors like bubble gum, magic unicorn, strawberry cheesecake, which children think as harmless,” he added.
“Vapes are harmful. If they will say e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes, you still cannot say there is no harm. We are still not very clear on it because these are newly developed chemicals. The long-term effects are still unknown,” he said.
The health official advised those who use the vape products to stop using it.
“This product is addicting. It is not safe. And it is not a health product. It has no positive effect on our bodies. It even carries the possibility of you getting sick. We really urge everybody to stop,” said Domingo.
Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP) President Anna Ong-Lim backed Domingo on the harmful effects of vape especially for pregnant women.
“Even while you’re pregnant, whatever you take in for your body it can be transferred to the baby. If you have young children at home, secondhand smoke can actually cause a lot of health issues for your children,” she said.
Domingo said once the EO is issued, they will coordinate with the Department of Trade and Industry and Bureau of Customs.
The President issued the directive after the country recorded the first probable case of e-cigarette or vape-associated lung injury (EVAL) case. Health authorities are reportedly monitoring the case of the female patient from the Visayas suffering from lung injury reportedly as a result of vaping. (with a report from Aaron Recuenco)