SWP lauds DepEd for joining the call to veto the Vape Bill

The Social Watch Philippines (SWP) commended the Department of Education (Deped) for joining the health department and civil society organizations in appealing to veto the proposed Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act or the Vape Bill.

“We would like to applaud DepEd for protecting the welfare of Filipino learners. What we need now is an evidence-based policy and recommendations that will secure the reduction of the prevalence of tobacco and nicotine dependence, not a bill that pretends to be a health measure. The Philippines must take the precautionary stance in dealing with the deadly novel tobacco products and immediately implement RA 11467.  If passed into law, SB 2239 will continue to alter the image of vapor products, promote doubts on its harms, and mislead the public,” SWP explained.

The SWP urged President Rodrigo Duterte to practice his power to veto a bill that puts harmful products in the hands of the younger market and less regulated platforms.

“We trust that the president will do the right thing. We hope that he will mobilize his resources to fulfill his mandate to protect the Filipinos and our right for a safer environment,” SWP added.

On the other hand, Aktibong Kilusan Tungo sa Iisang Bayan (AKTIB) Philippines, a national coalition of peoples’ organizations campaigning for a smoke-free and vape-free communities also extended their gratitude to DepEd for supporting the appeal.

“We, at the community, are gravely concerned with particular provisions of SB2239. According to the Global Youth Tobacco Survey, there is a 110% increase in vape use in just four years among the Filipino youth, from 11.7% in 2015 to 24.6%. By lowering the age of access and allowing kid- friendly flavors, the bill clearly targets our youth and put them at risk to subsequent nicotine addiction. The vape bill is not a coherent public response to the tobacco epidemic,” said Sara Salvador, National Coordinator of AKTIB Philippines.

In the letter addressed to the president dated 26 January 2022, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones stressed that the Republic Act No. 11346 and 11467 and Executive Order No. 106, s. 2020 already provided strong measures that effectively regulate electronic nicotine/non-nicotine delivery systems, heated tobacco products, and other novel tobacco products. She highlighted that the president could guarantee future generations’ health by tagging these laws as his legacy rather than the vaping bill.

“On behalf of the millions of DepEd learners, I strongly join the Department of Health in opposing the bill and humbly request the President to veto the legislation in its entirety,” the letter read.

DepEd cited their recent study with the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) to support this plea. The study revealed that the top reasons for vape use among Filipino learners are online accessibility, varied flavors, and the belief that such items are allegedly safer than tobacco products. The analysis also revealed that initiation for vape use is 10 to 15 years old.

Once signed into law, SB 2239 will lower the access restriction from 21 to 18 years old, allow youth-appealing flavors other than plain tobacco and menthol, and allow online sales. It will also transfer the regulation of products from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).