The House of Representatives on Monday approved with an overwhelming 192 affirmative votes, 34 negative and four abstentions on third and final reading a bill that seeks to regulate the manufacture, use, sale, packaging, distribution and communication of electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS) or electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) in the Philippines.
Consumer groups and tobacco harm reduction advocates Vapers PH, Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP), Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) and Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA) welcomed the passage of the landmark regulation as it will provide adults with a chance to choose less harmful alternatives to cigarettes.
House Bill No. 9007, a consolidation of 23 bills authored by 154 representatives, seeks to establish a clear and effective law and regulation, including product standards to govern these vaporized nicotine products (VNPs) which are considered non-combustible alternatives to cigarettes.
In a statement, Clarisse Virgino, CAPHRA’s Philippine Representative said, “The proposed Act will legitimize the market of vaporized nicotine products which means that consumers will have better protection. We hope that the Senate will also support this bill to provide millions of Filipino smokers with less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes.”
“The passage of House Bill No. 9007 is a win for Filipino consumers who have been long fighting for our voices to be heard. We laud the House of Representatives for finally recognizing our rights to choose less harmful products such as e-cigarettes and HTPs,” PECIA President Joey Dulay said.
“We welcome the passage of HB 9007 by the House of Representatives which has shown its resolve to promote a progressive health policy that respects our rights as nicotine consumers and at the same time provides us options to switch to alternative nicotine products. We hope that the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration will also take the cue from Congress in recognizing harm reduction as a public health strategy,” NCUP President Anton Israel said.
“We would like to thank our congressmen for looking at scientific evidence in coming up with a bill that would provide Filipino adult smokers a choice to switch to less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes,” Vapers PH President Peter Paul Dator said.
AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon S. Garin, one of the sponsors of HB 9007, said the proposed “Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act” will fill the gap in local regulation amid the proliferation of sale and use of HTPs and vaping products among Filipino consumers.
AKO Bicol Rep. Alfredo A. Garbin Jr., a co-author of the bill, said the measure seeks to reflect tobacco harm reduction in the declaration of policy. He said tobacco harm reduction is a principle supported by no less than the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) in the United Kingdom.
Garin said that as of 2020, 85 countries like the Philippines have no specific laws yet or regulation regarding nicotine vaping products.
It is estimated that there are nearly a million Filipino consumers of vaporized nicotine products and most of them were former smokers who switched to these smoke-free products, which Garin said, are substantially different, less harmful, and better than smoking cigarettes.
“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.
In her sponsorship speech, Garin said the provisions of the bill were tackled extensively and were approved with an overwhelming 102 affirmative votes with only 12 negative votes and two abstentions after extensive discussions by the Joint Committees of Trade and Industry and Health.
The approved version of the bill recognizes harm reduction measures as a public health strategy by ensuring that non-combustible alternatives to cigarettes are properly regulated.
Garin said that 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.”
The bill specifically prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes and HTPs to minors. Section 6 provides that the minimum allowable age for the purchase, sale and use of ENDS/ENNDS or HTPs shall be 18 years old the same minimum age for cigarette smoking.
Garin said the bill aims 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 said.
The bill also includes sections on packaging and health warnings. The health warning shall have the words, “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.”
It also specifies that the products shall not be tampered with. Section 5 of the bill provides that all e-liquid receptacles shall be child-resistant, tamper-resistant and shall be protected against breakage and leakage.
The bill requires retailers to ensure that no individual purchasing ENDS/ENDDS or HTPs is below 18. “Retailers shall verify the age of all buyers by requiring the presentation of any valid government-issued identification card exhibiting the buyer’s photograph and age or date of birth,” it says.
The use of ENDS/ENNDS or HTPs shall be prohibited in all enclosed public places except in designated vaping areas. Indoor use of the products is prohibited in schools, hospitals, government offices and facilities intended for minors under Section 14.
The sale or distribution of these products within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, playground or other facility frequented by minors shall also be prohibited. ENDS/ENNDS and HTP companies are prohibited from sponsoring any sport, concert, cultural or art event
It requires the designation of vaping areas which shall not be larger than 20 percent of total floor area of the building or conveyance but shall not be less than 10 square meters.
Online sale or e-commerce involving these products is allowed under the bill.
The proposed measure puts The Department of Trade and Industry in charge of the regulation, in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is the DTI that shall set standards for market entry notification and standards on flavors and additives used in the manufacture of e-liquids and refills as well as on electronic components of ENDS/ENNDS.
Once the bill is signed into law, the DTI, in consultation with the Department of Health, NTA and other relevant government agencies, will issue the rules and regulations within 90 days from date of effectivity.
Penalties on manufacturers, importers, distributors and sellers found in violation of the bill’s provisions shall face fine of not more than P500,000 on first offense, not more than P750,000 on second offense, and not more than P1 million or imprisonment of not more than five years on third offense as well as cancellation of business permit.
Meanwhile, Section 23 encourages manufacturers to use local tobacco products for e-liquids and HTPs sold in the Philippines.
Garin said there are at least 32 independent local, international, renowned organizations that confirm that vaping is far better than smoking.