The House of Representative is moving to pass a proposed landmark law that would regulate the sale and manufacture of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) in a move to curb cigarette smoking by offering smokers less harmful alternatives.
Certain of passage with 154 co-authors in the 300-man chamber, the so-called Vaporized Nicotine Product bill seeks to establish clear and effective regulations to monitor product standards and prevent sales to minors among others.
“Although the country is already experiencing a proliferation of sale and use of HTPs and vaping products among Filipino consumers, we do not have a clear and effective law and regulation, including product standards that should govern these products. Thus, through the passage of this bill, we fill this gap on regulation,” Rep. Sharon Garin, principal sponsor of the measure, said.
In her sponsorship speech, Garin said the proposed law also seeks to address the unintended or potential adverse consequences on the use of these products. “Thus, we have included in this bill, mechanisms on controlling safety risks and preventing youth uptake of all tobacco and nicotine products,” she added.
Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said the bill is anchored on the principle of tobacco harm reduction which promotes regulations proportionate to the risk on consumers of tobacco and other nicotine containing products.
Under interpellation on the floor of the House, Garbin expressed hopes that regulating e-cigarettes and HTPs would encourage more smokers to quit combustible cigarettes and switch to these less harmful alternatives. He acknowledged the growing body of scientific evidence that point to combustion or the burning of tobacco as the principal cause of smoking related diseases.
Electronic cigarettes which deliver nicotine in liquid form have grown in use in recent years with the open tank system or those with refillable juices being the most popular. One the other hand, the most popular HTP in the country today is IQOS from Philp Morris International which heats tobacco to release nicotine containing aerosol.
Garin said by recognizing the principle of harm reduction, we envision that this bill will contribute in the protection of public health, not only for the non-smokers but also for the current adult Filipino smokers.
For his part, Garbin said tobacco harm reduction is a principle supported by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in the United Kingdom. In 2007, the RCP reported that harm reduction is a fundamental component of many aspects of medicine and, indeed, everyday life, yet for some reason effective harm reduction principles have not been applied to tobacco smoking.
“Although it is not possible to precisely quantify the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes, the available data suggest that they are unlikely to exceed 5 percent of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure,” Garbin quoted a 2016 RCP report.
Garbin said that aside from the UK, other countries also embrace this view on nicotine and harm reduction. Former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb announced in one of his speeches that “nicotine is not directly responsible for the cancer, lung disease and heart disease that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year… it’s the other chemical compounds in tobacco, and in the smoke created by setting tobacco on fire, that directly and primarily cause the illness and death, not the nicotine.”
As of 2020, Garbin said 75 countries around the world have already passed laws regulating the sale of vaping products. The number of countries which banned e-cigarettes also went down last year with Norway the latest country to reverse its policy from a ban to regulation.
“The governments of Canada and New Zealand have now also recognized the potential benefit smokers can gain when switching to vaping. Their decision to adopt such policies is anchored on decades of research on the subject of nicotine, e-cigarettes, tobacco and harm reduction,” Garbin said.
Garin said bill was extensively discussed and debated by experts, scientists and other stakeholders during the joint hearings conducted by the House Committees on Trade and Industry and on Health.
“One very important lesson we learned from the Committees’ public hearings and the technical working group is that ‘not all nicotine products are the same.’ These novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products are substantially different, less harmful, and better than smoking cigarettes and therefore should be regulated differently and proportionately,” she said.
In fact, Garin said there are at least 32 independent local, international, renowned organizations that agree that vaping is far better than smoking.
“We recognize that the entry of alternative products such as vapor products and HTPs in the market raises the need for regulation primarily in the interest of public welfare. Furthermore, on top of public health concerns, regulation is needed to balance factors such as revenue generation; trade and commerce; job creation; the protection of minors and non-smokers; public safety against sub-standard or malfunctioning products; the interest of tobacco farmers; the interest of industry; and the interests of all stakeholders who stand to be affected by the introduction of said category,” she said.
“Thus, this bill when passed into law, will provide for a holistic regulatory framework for vapor products and HTPs that takes into consideration and balance the interests of the general public, along with the stakeholders most interested in their use and sale,” said Garin.