'Have an open mind': E-cigarette advocates call for passage of vape bill

A vape and e-cigarette advocates organization on Thursday, May 5 called for the immediate passage of the so-called "Vape Bill."

Members of the Vapers Alliance (MANILA BULLETIN)

The Vapers Alliance (VA)--an organization of 3,500 vape and e-cigarette stakeholders, according to their Facebook page—has called for the passage of the highly controversial Vape Bill which recently has drawn flak from several government departments.

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VA President Fernando Rodrigo Jr. and board members James Casilagan, Roman Belitez; Dominic Bayon; and Fritz Balcruz–e-cigarette resellers and business owners–held a press conference on May 5, lobbying for the passage of the bill.

"Together with promoting harm reduction efforts against tobacco, we are also fighting to make sure that the products are only accessible to smokers and to those who are of legal age. With this reason, we would like to thank the government in making efforts toward regulating the industry through RA (Republic Act) 11467," read the VA members' statement.

A consolidation of Senate Bill (SB) 2239 and House Bill (HB) 9007, the measure seeks to lower the minimum age requirement for vape use from 21 to 18, as well as to regulate the vape and e-cigarette industry.

"We would also like to contribute to the national coffers through taxes generated by the industry... We are also industries that employ thousands of other people—helping them feed their households in return," the statement added.

The law RA 11467 increases the excise taxes on tobacco products, vapes and e-cigarettes, and alcohol products.

The group also argued that limiting vape and e-cigarette flavors to only tobacco and menthol would effectively end the local industry.

"Para po kaming halaman na hindi dinidiligan kapag nangyari yon. Di naman po natin ma-eexpect na may dalawang magkaparehong tindahan na ang tinitignan ay dadalawang flavor. Yung beer, may flavor, yung yosi, may flavor (We would be like unwatered plants if that happened. We can't expect that two similar stores would stock only two of the same flavors. Beer has flavors, cigarettes have flavors)," the VA explained.

Reporters then asked for the VA's reaction toward the Department of Health's (DOH) call for Preisdent Duterte to veto the vape bill.

"Ang masasabi natin (What we're saying) is try to have an open mind. Consider po natin yung magagandang bagay (Let's consider the benefits). For the longest time yung pinag-uusapan natin is paniniwala niyo (the topic has been personal beliefs). It's high time tignan natin yung bagong teknolohiya, yung mga bagong pamamaraan, para mailigtas ang mga tao, lalo ngayon na may pandemya tayo (we should consider new technology, new ways of doing things to save the people, especially now that we are in a pandemic). We need an open mind," said Rodrigo, as if addressing the DOH directly.

The VA members shared anecdotes about how they had been former cigarette smokers but had converted to vaping for personal health reasons.

There are 16.6 million adults in the Philippines who use tobacco products as per an October 2021 study by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).