Advocates urge Marcos to veto Vape Bill

Social Watch Philippines (SWP), an organization advocating for people-centered health policies for the realization of the United Nations 2030 Agenda called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to veto Senate Bill 2239 or the “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act”.

In a letter addressed to Marcos dated 15 July 2022, SWP joined the Department of Health (DOH), many other health professionals, public health advocates, and sectoral representatives in their appeal to veto the regressive bill.

“The passage of this anti-public health bill measure comes at a time in our nation’s history when we have yet to recover from the covid-19 pandemic and the multiple social and economic problems it has spawned, including recent global events that have negatively impacted the quality of life of our people. Now more than ever, it is critical that public health is prioritized over corporate profits,” the letter read.

The SWP expressed their alarm over the provisions of SB2239 which will overturn pro-health provisions contained in Republic Act 11467.  One of these is the transfer of authority over vape products from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). According to the advocates, this runs counter to a recent Supreme Court ruling which affirmed that tobacco products are viewed as health products due to its harmful impact on people’s health, and therefore rightfully fall within the regulatory ambit of the FDA.

The advocates further criticized a proposed provision that lowers the age of access from 21 to 18 years old allowing a younger population to be targeted.  According to them, other objectionable features are the lifting of the ban on flavors as well as providing permission for advertising, all of which will make these dangerous products more appealing to the young. It must be noted that a September 2021 Pulse Asia Survey showed that the majority of Filipinos support restricting access to e-cigarettes to those who are 21 years and above and a ban on making flavors available and accessible.

“Harmful products such as vapor products cannot be part of any ‘build back better’ scenario.  The pending vape bill, especially many of its regressive features, clearly undermines public health interests. We hope that the President will protect and prioritize public health and uphold the value of the evidence-based policy.  We trust that the President will be the President of everyone in all regions. We call on the President to veto the vape bill, ” said SWP Co-Convenor Dr. Ma. Victoria Raquiza.

The bill was transmitted to the Office of the President, just three days before former President Rodrigo Duterte stepped down from public office. It will lapse into law by July 24 without any Presidential action.