Advocates alarmed by lapse of Vape Law

The Social Watch Philippines (SWP), an organization advocating for people-centered health policies for the realization of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, expresses its grave concern over the lapsing into law of the Vape Bill, or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act.

“The “Vape Law” is a blatant disrespect to the endeavors of Filipinos who have fought for pro-people and pro-health regulatory systems for decades. While we were sleeping, a policy with regressive provisions silently lapsed into law and undermined our gains to promote public health. We cannot afford to stay quiet and allow this law to hurt the public, particularly our children,” said SWP Co-Convenor Dr. Ma. Victoria Raquiza.

SWP together with the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), health experts, and other health advocates have been ardently calling for the veto of this controversial measure due to its regressive provisions.  The law, which automatically lapsed into law last 25 July 2022, lowers the access of vape products from 21 to 18; transfers the regulation of vape products from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); and allows flavors aside from tobacco and menthol.

The organization explains that vape products are harmful, and should never be marketed as safe alternatives to conventional cigarettes. Most of these contain nicotine—the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. It has been established that consuming nicotine before the age of 25 can harm the parts of the brain responsible for attention, learning, mood, and impulse control. Thus, these products should be regulated by the FDA which has the expertise and competencies for the work required.

According to SWP, the voices of many reputable doctors’ associations, the DOH, the FDA, the DepEd, the Department of Finance, health advocates, and most importantly, the majority of ordinary citizens were ignored.  The advocates noted a September 2021 Pulse Asia Survey that showed that a staggering 77% of Filipinos believe that vaping devices and e-cigarettes are a ‘serious health hazard, while 70% support a policy that restricts age accessibility to vapes and e-cigarettes at 21 years old and above.

“Even science and evidence-based policy making was shunted aside. Instead, tobacco corporate interests trumped public health with the enactment of the vape bill into law,” Raquiza added.

Despite this disheartening news, the SWP remains committed to its mission to push for evidence-based health policies. The organization will continue to study and support further actions and interventions for more stringent regulations on vape products both at the local and national levels. The SWP implores President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s to live up to his statement during his 1st State of the Nation Address (SONA) that science will be a cornerstone of his administration.

“We may have lost this battle, but the war for public health is far from over.   The SWP calls on the public to speak up and engage in public actions to influence policies and programs that affect them, especially in relation to their families and children’s health and welfare” said Raquiza.