'Vape pa more'! DOH records cases of lung injuries among minors due to e-cigarettes, seeks PNP's help

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Teodoro Herbosa sought on Wednesday, March 6, the assistance of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to ensure that minors will have no access to e-cigarettes amid cases of young Filipinos suffering from lung injuries.

Herbosa said he specifically asked PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda, Jr. to ensure that the specific provision of the Republic Act 11900 relating to the prohibition to sell vapes to people below 18 years old is strictly implemented.

RA 11900, which was enacted into law in 2022, was aimed at regulating the importation, sale, packaging, distribution, use and communication of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and novel tobacco products.

This includes electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

While the law is specific in connection with the prohibition of the sale to minors, Herbosa said that he himself witnessed how minors, some of them are wearing school uniforms, are using vapes even inside the malls.

“This is alarming because I talked to the director of the Lung Center of the Philippines and they have cases of minors, below 18, that already have lung injury from e-smoking from e-cigarettes and e-vaping,” said Herbosa in an interview at Camp Crame in Quezon City after a meeting with Acorda.

“They (minors) are getting sick because they can buy vape and they have been doing this for months. So this is what I asked the PNP, to help implement what is written in the law because the DOH has no enforcement power,” he added. 

What the law says

Section 6 of RA 11900 discusses minimum age sales and purchase and under it clearly stated that those who sell must not sell the products to the minors.

“The minimum allowable age for the purchase, sale and use of Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products, their devices, or Novel Tobacco Products shall be eighteen (18) years old,” the law read.

“It shall not be a defense for the person selling or distributing that he or she did not know or was not aware of the real age of the purchaser. Neither shall it be a defense that he or she did not know nor had any reason to believe that the product was for the consumption of a person below eighteen (18) years of age,” it added.

Also under Section of the same law, sellers are also required to ask for proof of age to ensure that they would not sell their products to minors.

“Retailers shall ensure that no individual below eighteen (18) years of age is allowed to purchase Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products, their devices, or Novel Tobacco Products. It shall be the responsibility of retailers to verify the age of buyers,” it stated.

“For this purpose, the presentation of any valid government-issued identification card exhibiting the buyer's photograph and age or date of birth shall be required. Retailers shall ensure direct delivery only to individuals who must be eighteen (18) years old and above,” it added.

Operational Guideline

For his part, Acorda said he already tasked the head of the Directorate for Operations, Maj. Gen. Ronald Lee, to formulate operational guidelines that would give emphasis on protecting the minors, including the arrest of the sellers.

“The provision of the law is clear, the protection of the minors is the intention of the law,” said Acorda.

“Also, we will be having our community awareness program and through the media. We will make sure that this opportunity that we have now to inform the public of the bad effects of vaping,” he added.