Regulation better for Pinoys than a ban, says e-cigarettes group

By Ellson Quismorio

Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA) President Joey Dulay appealed to House of Representatives members Monday to pursue the proper regulation of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) as opposed to the sweeping ban that was recently ordered by Malacañang.

A man smokes an electronic cigarette in Manila on Wednesday, President Duterte has ordered a ban on the use and importation of vaping products or electronic cigarettes in the country. (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN) In a bid to protect public health and interest, President Duterte has ordered a ban on the use and importation of vaping products or electronic cigarettes in the country (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the prohibition on the public use and importation of e-cigarettes late last month, citing health concerns.

"We can better protect our people if we regulate e-cigarettes instead of banning them," Dulay told the joint committees on trade and industry and health, which held their first hearing on the 15 bills seeking regulation of the local ENDS industry.

ENDS is the umbrella term used by the joint panel to refer to non-combustible cigarettes, which covers electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), vaporizers, and the brand-specific "Juul."

"We fear that fly-by-night will thrive if the ban is pushed," said Dulay, adding that it is those kinds of peddlers who bring a bad name to ENDS.

He said government regulation of such devices would ensure that only high-quality devices and products would reach consumers.

"Banning ENDS will ultimately benefit cigarette manufacturers," Dulay said, breaking down during his presentation to the joint panel after remembering his late father. He said his father, a heavy smoker, died at age 48 due to a heart attack.

According to Dulay, he set up an e-cigarette shop in order to help fellow smokers who want to quit smoking. This is in line with the usual marketing of ENDS as a "smoking-cessation device."

Speaking about PECIA, he said, "We pay wages and taxes and we self-regulate; we do not sell to minors." Some 250 "legitimate businessmen" comprise the group.

“Enticing” flavors

Another resource person at the hearing, Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) secretary Dr. Maria Encarnita Limpin, flatly said that e-cigarettes aren't safe.

"Definitely from reports, e-cigarettes aren't safe, they are harmful," Limpin said,
noting that ENDS have the same set of chemicals that conventional cigarettes do. About two dozen of these chemicals are harmful to the body, she said.

Moreover, Limpin expressed great concern over ENDS’ strong appeal to minors. "There are 15,500 flavors available , some enticing to children, like bubble gum."

The doctor noted that Juul, which is quite popular among the youth, looks just like a USB thumb drive.

"You will not be able to distinguish if what they bring to school is Juul or USB," the PCP official said, referring to minors.

"Now we see an alarming increase in Juul users...It's hard to regulate. When I presented this to health officials, it was the first time they learned about it. It's advertised in the open, in malls where children can see them," she added.

Limpin also cited cases of e-cigarettes that exploded during use, injuring the smoker.