Youth caught in ‘vape epidemic’: DepEd, CHEd pressed for solution
MANILA, Philippines —Advocacy groups have warned of the “vape epidemic” among young people and urged the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to act since children’s lives are at risk.
The Child Rights Network (CRN) and Parents Against Vape (PAV) believe that the government’s education agencies are best suited to enforce Republic Act 11900’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) implementing rules and regulations.
“Although the Trade and Industry Department issued an administrative order to implement the law, we firmly believe that the education agencies are in a more strategic position to address the vaping epidemic among our youth,” CRN convenor Romeo Dongeto said in a statement.
According to the 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 14.1% of schoolchildren smoke electronic cigarettes. 20.9 percent of boys polled used e-cigs, compared to 7.5 percent of girls in the same age group. One in seven students, or one in five boys and almost one in 10 girls, are addicted to electronic cigarettes.
“[These] statistics are alarming and deeply concerning. It is unacceptable that the vape industry is preying on young Filipinos with their marketing tactics, perpetuating nicotine addiction and putting their health at risk,” he said.
“We must take immediate action to protect our children’s right to health and an environment free from tobacco and nicotine. We call on the DepEd and CHED to prioritize the implementation of the vape regulation law and strengthen efforts to combat the vape epidemic among our youth,” he added.
CRN stressed that DepEd’s Child Protection Unit and Child Rights in Education Desk must be activated, among other measures, to address vape use among youth “to strengthen advocacy efforts against vapes and e-cigarettes.”
It also urged both the DepEd and CHEd to release guidelines on the sale of vapes and e-cigarettes, particularly by banning it within a 200-meter radius of schools and near “centers of youth activity such as playschools, preparatory schools, elementary schools, high schools, colleges and universities, youth hostels, and recreational facilities for persons under 18 years old.”
The CRN and PAV likewise called on the DTI to strictly implement RA 11900, emphasizing the agency’s monitoring powers to ensure the strict enforcement of the said law “to protect children from the marketing tactics of the tobacco and vape industry.
“DTI must not – even for a day – waver on its commitment to monitoring the sale of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) that violate the restrictions on flavor descriptors and marketing strategies that directly cater to the youth and children. We laud DTI’s initial efforts, but this should continue in the years to come,” said PAV president Imelda Esposado-Gocotano.
Both groups further urged advocates and parents to help the government in ensuring that the regulations on electronic tobacco products are correctly implemented.