More Filipino doctors threw their support behind the final version of the Vape Bill which will prohibit high-nicotine products in the country and strengthen the penal provisions on the sale of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products to minors.
“The final version is way better than what we initially had hoped for. It is very comprehensive and restrictive, more restrictive than the tobacco law,” said Dr. Fernando Fernandez, secretary-general of the Asia Pacific Dental Federation.
Dr. Fernandez said the Vape Bill fulfills the promise of President Duterte to ban high nicotine e-cigarettes and illegal vape products that target the youth.
“We don’t have this kind of ban existing today under RA 11467. I strongly support and recommend the passage of this important public health measure,” said Dr. Fernandez.
Republic Act No. 11467, or the law imposing taxes on vapor products, only provides for a one-paragraph provision regulating vapor products particularly on the ban on the use of flavors that appeal to minors as well as age restrictions.
Dr. Fernandez, the past president of the Philippine Dental Association and the Philippine College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, cited the need to have a comprehensive law that will regulate vapor products to fully protect the youth while encouraging 16 million Filipino smokers to kick the habit.
“How can a one-paragraph provision of RA 11467 regulate all aspects of vaping and vape products?” said Dr. Fernandez.
“This is the reason we need the vape bill because it is a very detailed one covering all aspects of the product including how it is marketed and sold as well as rules on product standards and registration,” said Dr. Fernandez.
Some sectors earlier expressed concern that the Vape Bill would perpetuate the use of vape products among the youth but those who have reviewed the final version of the Vape Bill disagree.
“I have always followed the developments on the Vape Bill because I know it will benefit people like me who were ones a long-time smoker and was able to successfully quit smoking and shifted to less harmful products like vape and heated tobacco products,” said Dr. Telesforo Gana, past president of the Philippine Urological Association.
“Even if I am not a lawyer, it is easy to see that the final version of the Vape Bill is better than RA 11467 because it adequately protects our youth by providing several provisions that will ban the use of these products to minors including a ban on using flavor descriptors that appeal to minors—in addition to the flavor ban under RA 11467. Many or most of the provisions of the vape bill are not contained in RA 11467,” said Dr. Gana.
Unlike RA 11467, the final version of the Vape Bill contains penal provisions that are meant to penalize violators of its provisions.
Dr. Gana, past chairman of the Philippine Board of Urology, noted that there are plenty of illegal vape products being sold in the market.
“There were several instances that I almost bought a fake product had I not noticed that the same did not contain the tax stamp required by the BIR. I think there is a low level of compliance because RA 11467 does not provide for penalties, particularly for those caught selling flavored vape products. Hopefully, the Vape Bill will address this legal loophole to encourage 100-percent compliance by manufacturers and retailers in order to protect our youth,” said Dr. Gana.
The Vape Bill, after three years of deliberations, was overwhelmingly approved by both the Senate and Congress on January 26, 2022 and is touted to be a landmark public health legislation by many including those in the scientific and medical community.
“No one can argue with science, and the science on vape products shows that they are significantly less harmful than cigarettes. There is no doubt that the passage of the vape bill will benefit the health of our 16 million Filipino smokers and protect our youth. This is our best hope to end the smoking epidemic,” said Dr. Assunta Mendoza, a former head of the Department of Anesthesiology at the Manila Medical Center.
Public health regulators around the world including Public Health England and the New Zealand Department of Health concluded that vaping is 95-percent less harmful than smoking. Many countries like Canada and Switzerland have also enacted a comprehensive law to regulate vape products with the hopes of convincing smokers, who cannot stop smoking, to switch to alternative products.