Doctors and health advocates are calling for a ban in the sale and distribution of flavored vapor products to prevent children and young adults from smoking and vaping.
Senate bills proposing the regulation of electronic cigarettes and vapes contained provisions that would prohibit vapor products with flavors other than tobacco and menthol.
Republic Act No. 11467 or the Sin Tax Law already prohibits flavored liquids apart from tobacco and menthol flavors.
“We support a ban on flavors because these flavors are attractive to young people,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), during the hearing of the Senate trade subcommittee on Wednesday, March 17.
“If the intention is really to help smokers to reduce their harm from smoking then there should be no problem…We would support even banning menthol because these are also attractive to young people,” he added.
Dr. Rizalina Gonzales of the Philippine Pediatric Society’s (PPS) tobacco control advocacy group said their study found that flavors entice children to smoke.
“Aside from the online accessibility, second is actually the availability of these various flavors,” Gonzales said, citing the PPS’ 2020 online survey among 11,500 children in Grades 7 to 9.
“Many of these kids and the young have this notion that these are just flavored puffs, when in fact, flavoring is a no-no combination with nicotine, because when heated, they also produce toxic chemicals,” she warned.
“Unregulated flavors send out the wrong signal to children that these are just flavored products…Shall we allow the e-cigarette epidemic among our kids?” Gonzales told the Senate panel.
Also citing scientific studies, lawyer Ben Nisperos of advocacy group HealthJustice Philippines said that 81 percent of the youth and 86 percent of young adults that were tobacco users reported that their first product was flavored.
“Three-fouths of young vapers choose flavored e-cigarettes, with fruit and candy being the top two choices. That’s why youth are most likely to use flavors,” Nisperos added.
Flavored refills also poses health risks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.
“The flavors are not just flavors, these are chemicals wherein inhalational exposure…have toxicity and health effects,” said Ana Rivera of the FDA’s Cosmetics Regulation and Research.
Rivera said the flavors particularly contain carcinogens or chemicals that may cause cancer.
While scientific evidence show that “there is reduction in the exposure” to carcinogens in using vape and heated tobacco products, Rivera said this does not mean the vaping is less harmful.
“In terms of harm, especially in the long term, we still don’t know. There is a dearth of evidence because it only started in the early 2000s. And in terms of endpoints, if we try to say that the endpoint is cancer, it will take 20 years before we find out whether this type of product can already cause cancer,” she said.
Pressed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto to clarify, Rivera said: “There is less exposure, not less harmful…Because there is cancer in these products so we cannot say there is less cancer.”
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also supported limiting the sale of flavored vapor products to only tobacco and menthol.
“We understand the candy flavors or fruit flavors are big attraction to young people and those who have not started smoking might be prevented from starting to smoke,” Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said.