Senate President Vicente Sotto III asked the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) to guarantee that the guidelines for vape and heated tobacco products (HTPs) are faithful to their enabling law, noting that regulations for these better nicotine alternatives should not be more difficult for them to compete against cigarettes.
“We don’t want it to appear that introducing a cigarette product to the Philippines is easier than introducing a heated tobacco product (HTP) or a vapor product,” Sotto said during the Senate interpellation on the Department of Health’s (DOH) 2021 budget last November 18, 2020 sponsored by Sen. Pia Cayetano.
The FDAwas tasked to draft the general guidelines for the implementation of Republic Act No. 11467 and Executive Order No. 106 which allow the sale, distribution, and taxation of HTPs and electronic cigarettes or vapes.
Sotto said they have received letters from some sectors, particularly the e-cigarette consumer groups, expressing concerns over the FDA’s draft guidelines on vapor products and HTPs.
He said, “Here in the Senate, we, as usual, are concerned with the implementing rules and regulations and guidelines of some government agencies. It has been a big issue with us, because some agencies appear to go beyond what the enabling law provides.”
Sotto said he’s afraid that the regulations might be making it more difficult for vapes and HTPs to compete against cigarettes.
He stressed that e-cigarettes or vapes and heated tobacco products are better than cigarettes, “I was in London over a year ago at nakita ko yung mga pagkakaiba, malaki [I saw the differences, they’re huge].
“We have to admit that, especially heated tobacco. Ang layo nu’ng heated tobacco at saka nu’ng actual cigarette [heated tobacco is far different from actual cigarettes], even the second-hand smoke from the cigarettes. The heated tobacco does not have a second-hand smoke, but the actual cigarettes have,” he added.
Cayetano noted that she will remind the FDA that the Senate “is very conscious of their not exceeding their authority.They should just be guided by the law.”
She acknowledge that she and Sotto “are of like minds, that our biggest concern is the youth, and what I learned when I went to London was that the reason that in London they can really push for e-cigs is because they have already been successful in preventing the youth from smoking cigarettes.”
Sotto agrees saying, “Ayaw naman natin na yung mga kabataan, yung mga tao na hindi naman naninigarilyo biglang makakaisip mag-e-cigs or heated tobacco. Ang gusto natin yung mga naninigarilyo, patulan na yung heated tobacco or e-cigs. (We don’t want the youth and those who don’t smoke to suddenly think of using e-cigs and heated tobacco. What we want is for those who smoke to shift to heated tobacco or e-cigs.)
Sotto said studies have shown that 80 percent of people who switched to HTPs never went back to smoking cigarettes again.
“I’m so sure about that. Talagang (really) 80% ‘di na bumabalik manigarilyo (don’t go back to smoking). Perfect example is my brother and people in Eat Bulaga. Most of them are smokers. When they turned to heated tobacco more than a year ago, none of them have gone back [to smoking cigarettes]. So naniniwala ako dun sa (I believe in the) study.”
Sotto recognized that the government needs to properly regulate these electronic nicotine delivery systems or ENDS and HTPs. He, however, pointed out that certain ingredients considered essential for these products are proposed to be prohibited in the FDA draft guidelines.
“For example, there is the prohibition on the use of glycerol and propylene glycol. These are aerosol formers for these products, so if they are banned, the products will not work anymore. If there is no aerosol to inhale, it will make these products unusable; so, in other countries, they are not banned in e-cigarettes,” he said.
Cayetano said the FDA only pointed out and banned those that are poisonous. She clarified that “they do not ban the other products or ingredients needed to produce that aerosol.”