While the Supreme Court’s (SC’s) decision to uphold the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) power over tobacco products is a life-saving move, the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act (Vape Bill), which is now an enrolled bill at the Office of the President, can possibly “dilute” its impact, health authorities said on Monday, June 27.
In his final leg, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, who is an internationally renowned tobacco control champion, led the health department in calling Filipinos to say no to smoking and vaping, and appealing to President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the Vape Bill.
“The DOH once more urges President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to save more lives by vetoing the now enrolled Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act,” the DOH said in a statement.
While health authorities lauded the SC for upholding the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over all health products, including tobacco products due to their harmful effects on health, in the DOH-FDA v. Philippine Tobacco Institute, G.R. No. 200431, it also took note on the impact to Filipinos once the Vape Bill is signed into law.
“The Inter-Agency Committee (IAC)-Tobacco, chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has limited jurisdiction, specifically to acts such as the regulation of distribution, access, sale, labeling, advertisements, sponsorships, and promotions,” the DOH noted.
It is clear, however, that nothing in the law thus far gives IAC-Tobacco any authority over the health aspects of tobacco products, and according to the SC, major transnational tobacco companies in the country are proposing an interpretation of Philippine law that will effectively remove them from regulation by the DOH and FDA and their desired interpretation allows for tobacco companies to be principally regulated by the IAC-Tobacco, chaired by the DTI.
Aside from this, the Vape Bill at the president’s office includes provisions that have equivalents in the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, with “one glaring difference”, the DOH noted.
“Should it become law, Section 21 of the Vape Bill could give to the DTI full authority over all aspects of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and their devices; in fact, even over “novel tobacco products” that are made partly of tobacco leaf or with nicotine from tobacco. It will result in an absurd situation wherein similar products that cause harm and danger are regulated differently, in derogation of the government’s duty to protect public health,” it was emphasized.
“Yielding the jurisdiction over vapor products from FDA to the DTI, an exception to R.A. No. 9711 sought by the Vape Bill, contravenes the protection afforded by the FDA Act. The SC decision in DOH-FDA v. Philippine Tobacco Institute might as well be for naught, should the Vape Bill become law,” the health department continued.