Lawmakers want regulation of e-cigarettes
LONDON—Filipino lawmakers on Saturday said it was now more urgent to regulate the sale and use electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) after the Department of Health (DOH) confirmed the country’s first case of lung injury caused by vaping.
Rep. Michael T. Defensor said such regulations must prohibit the sale to and purchase by minors of socalled electronic nicotine-delivery systems (Ends) and alternative tobacco products after a 16-year-old girl from Central Visayas was hospitalized following just seven months of vaping.
Defensor, vice chair of the health committee of the House of Representatives, added that e-cigarette advertisements should not be allowed to target the youth.
Defensor was with a group of House members who attended The E-Cigarette Summit: Science, Regulation and Public Health here where the latest regulations and policies on e-cigarettes around the world were discussed.
He said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should be empowered to screen vape products to ensure that only those that were reputable would be sold to prevent a repeat of the crisis in the United States where vapers were getting sick due and to the use of adulterated content.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded at least 2,172 cases of lung injuries and 42 deaths associated with e-cigarettes and vaping.
Defensor told the Inquirer the DOH must “establish its findings clearly” and determine what really caused the hospitalization of the girl from Central Visayas, because, as he claimed, e-cigarettes were “better” than regular cigarettes.
“I’m not saying that e-cigarettes are good, but they are definitely better than regular cigarettes. Remember that combustion and tar are the main culprits in cigarette smoking,” said the Anakalusugan party list representative.
The DOH said the first recorded e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (Evali) patient was not asthmatic. She was admitted to an undisclosed hospital on Oct. 21 for “sudden onset of difficulty of breathing.”
Manila Rep. Cristal Bagatsing, a member of the House delegation, recommended that an interagency body composed of the DOH, FDA, Department of Trade and Industry and Departmnet of Finance be created to conduct studies on the safety of Ends products before they are sold to the public.
Rep. Sharon S. Garin of the AAMBIS-OWA party list, who took part in the one-day UK-Asia Tobacco Harm Reduction DIalogue, said a bill she had filed was anchored on the concept of “harm reduction,” refering to “policies, regulations and actions focusing on reducing health risks, usually by providiing safer norms of hazardous products.”
Die from tar, gases
Proponents of harm reduction argue that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar and gasses, she said.
House Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Bernadette Herrera, said the case of the 16-year-old made vaping “a new public health menace and merits a forceful set of responses” contained in a bill that she intended to file next week.
“In recent years, vaping has deviously crept into the lifestyle of modern-day Filipinos, especially among our youth and young professionals. The confirmed case is yet more proof that vaporized nicotine and other liquefied chemicals are dangerous to human health,” she said.
Herrera, a member of Defensor’s committee, said her proposed measure would impose a total ban on vaping flavors, except for tobacco and menthol.
“The fruity and other flavors are there to deceive buyers, especially the young, into liking vaping because of the flavors,” said Herrera.
In Manila, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the DOH would cite the case of the girl from Central Visayas to ask for the immediate lifting of the court temporary restraining orders (TROs) on his department’s regulations against e-cigarettes.
“It’s very important [to have the TROs lifted]. That will somehow minimize the risk,” Duque said on Friday.
Temporary restraining orders
The implementation of the health department’s Administrative Order 2019-0007, which would regulate the distribution, sale and use of e-cigarettes, was halted by TROs issued last month by the regional trial courts in Pasig and Manila.
A company, Green Puff, and a certain Ryan Sazon, both e-cigarettes distributors, had questioned the authority of the DOH and the FDA over their products.
According to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, the petitioners opposed the regulation of the nicotine content and the flavors used in e-cigarettes.
Under the order, the maximum nicotine content for e-liquids was set at 20 milligrams per milliliter.
The order gave FDA the authority to “impose a ban on flavors and additives that are proven or suspected to be appealing to the youth, toxic, harmful, addictive or sensitizing.” Among the vape flavors currently available in the market are chocolate, cinnamon and strawberry.
The order also prohibits e-cigarettes from being sold to or purchased by minors.
On its Facebook page, the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association reminds its members to practice “self-regulation” by not selling their products to anyone below 18 years old and to check government-issued IDs of buyers to make sure of their age.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) joined calls against the use of e-cigarettes.
PhilHealth spokesperson Shirley Domingo said the state insurer would still shoulder the cost of the hospital stay of anyone who would be admitted for vaping-related illnesses.
In the meantime, she urged the public not to risk their health on products that are yet to be proven safe.
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