House leaders see strong drop in smoking rate once vape bill becomes law
MANILA, Philippines — House leaders are anticipating a significant drop in the number of Filipino smokers once the so-called vape bill is signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.
House Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta said smokers now have a better option that does not burn tobacco in the form of less harmful alternatives that are strictly regulated by the government.
“As seen in other countries, smoke-free alternatives significantly contributed to the drop in the number of smokers. This is our gift, our legacy to the Filipino people,” he said.
“Years from now when our country is rid of the smoking menace, we will look back at this Congress for starting the journey towards a smoke-free Philippines,” said Nueva Ecija 1st District Rep. Estrellita Suansing.
The House of Representatives ratified recently a landmark bill that aims to regulate vapes and heated tobacco products as part of the campaign to reduce smoking rate in the Philippines.
This followed the Senate ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the so-called vape bill also recently, bringing the measure closer to becoming a law. The enrolled bill will be sent to the Office of the President for his signature and approval.
“It will help the 16 million Filipino smokers to access less harmful alternatives to cigarettes,” Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Ace Barbers said, referring to the bill approved by the Bicameral Conference Committee.
Growing international scientific studies found e-cigarettes to be less harmful than combusted tobacco with at least 90-95% less of the toxins found in cigarette smoke.
“This [bill] is a game-changer,” said Suansing, a long-time health advocate.
Suansing, one of the authors of the Vaporized Nicotine Product (VNP) bill in the lower chamber, said the measure is an important component of the campaign for a smoke-free Philippines.
“Years from now when our country is rid of the smoking menace, we will look back at this Congress for starting the journey towards a smoke-free Philippines,” she said.
Marcoleta described the vape bill as good piece of legislation. “I congratulate my colleagues in Congress for the passage and approval of House Bill No. 9007 and Senate Bill No. 2239. While not a smoker myself, I understand the importance of providing the adult smoking population with viable alternatives that are, as stated by the WHO (World Health Organization) representative in our hearings in the Lower House, less harmful when compared to cigarettes.”
AKO Bicol Party List Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said the vape bill has provisions that particularly protect minors. “The vape bill is serious in preventing minors from getting these products. It provides penalties that are even stronger than the penalties imposed for violations of the tobacco law. Erring parties can be fined or imprisoned.”
The bill not only bans youth access to these products but also prohibits advertisements targeting minors. The use of vaporized nicotine products will be banned in schools, playgrounds, colleges, and universities.
It seeks to restrict online sales and e-commerce platforms and prohibits the industry from contracting health professionals, celebrities, even social media influencers, to promote or encourage the use of these products.
Barbers said the bill also imposes mandatory product standards to protect adult users, keep them away from minors, help curb the smuggling of these products, and ensure that the right taxes are paid to the government.
Under the bill, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will ensure that manufacturers and importers comply with mandatory standards and register their products with the department before introducing them in the market.
The DTI Secretary is authorized, upon due process, to order the recall, ban, or seizure of unregistered products or to shut down non-compliant websites. The DTI and the Food and Drug Administration will release mandatory product standards. Graphic health warnings will be imposed on the product packaging.
The bill is also expected to prevent illicit trade of these products and raise more excise taxes for the government’s Universal Health Care program.
“Once signed into law, the government will be able to properly regulate the sale and use of these products and at the same time, provide a new revenue stream for our public coffers. Equally important, the penal provisions contained therein shall ensure that only adult smokers can purchase these products and that minors will not be given access to the same,” said Marcoleta.
The Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP) said that once enacted into law, the vape bill is expected to reduce smoking rate in the Philippines. “It will provide Filipino smokers a way out of smoking through less harmful alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products,” said Anton Israel, president of NCUP.
“With the vaporized nicotine products regulated, the lives of 16 million Filipino smokers will be saved because legitimate alternative products will be allowed to be sold to smokers who want to stop smoking. The vape bill will also put an end to the sale of unregulated and illegal products that do not pay excise taxes to the government,” said Israel.
As the clamor to enact the vape bill into law snowballs, House leaders said the current Congress will be remembered someday when Philippine society would have been rid of the smoking menace and millions of smokers’ lives have been saved.
Joaqui Gallardo, spokesman of consumer group Vaper AKO, said that by enacting the vape bill, the Philippines will join the growing list of progressive countries that believe in providing less harmful alternatives to their smoker population who don’t want to stop smoking.
“Our country will join the ranks of the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and many other countries that believe in providing smokers with alternative products to save their lives. The experience of these countries will show that allowing alternative products has led to a significant drop in smoking rates with no effect at all on drug use or alcoholism,” said Gallardo.
“We laud Congress for recognizing the rights of 16 million smokers as well as 1 million Filipino vapers and users of heated tobacco products who have found a better way of consuming nicotine, which is a food-grade substance, by the way. With these innovative products, the risks are much lower for nicotine consumers,” he added.