Millions of Filipino smokers will soon have a less harmful option to move away from cigarettes if they find it hard to quit, once President Rodrigo Duterte signs into law this year the vaporized nicotine product (VNP) bill.
The House of Representatives ratified in January the bicameral conference committee report on the bill that would regulate the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use, and communication of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products, as well as novel tobacco products.
The final version approved by the chamber reconciled the disagreeing provisions of House Bill 9007 and Senate Bill 2239.
Once signed into law, the vape bill is expected to help 17 million Filipino smokers kick the habit, make less harmful alternatives to cigarettes more available, ensure the quality of VNP products in the country through proper regulation, raise additional revenues for the government, and prevent minors’ access to vape products, according to advocacy groups supporting it.
Historic win for public health
Dr. Rafael Castillo, former president of the Philippine Heart Association-Philippine College of Cardiology and the Philippine Society of Hypertension, said the Vaporized Nicotine Products (VNP) bill “will be a historic legislation that will become part of the legacy of the Duterte administration.”
Former National Kidney and Transplant Institute Chief Executive Officer Dr. Dante Dator, one of the country’s leading urologists, said the approval of the VNP bill by Congress is a historic win for public health as this will substantially diminish the impact of smoking on society.
Dra. Assunta Mendoza, past chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Manila Medical Center, said that, “as a medical practitioner who has seen countless of lives lost due to smoking, I support the government’s move to put an end to the smoking pandemic once and for all through the passage of the Vape Bill.”
Quit for Good President Dr. Lorenzo Mata said the VNP bill, which recognizes tobacco harm reduction (THR) as a pragmatic public health approach, “will inform millions of adult Filipino smokers about less harmful alternatives that are available and should be available to them, while the youth and non-smokers are protected.”
“SB 2239 is a big win for public health because we give the 16 million Filipino smokers a chance to stop cigarette smoking, while protecting our minors from using these products as it provides regulation banning the sale to minors and banning the use of flavor descriptors that attract minors,” Dr. Dator said.
“It will be the country’s first comprehensive law that will regulate vapor products and provide strict rules on its use to protect minors. It also provides for detailed regulation so that the 17 million Filipino smokers can access these less harmful alternatives,” said Dr. Castillo, a top cardiologist at the Manila Doctors Hospital and the only Filipino sitting as trustee at the International Society of Hypertension. He is also past president of the Asian Pacific Society of Hypertension.
For every smoker, a choice how to stop
Dra. Mendoza noted that “every smoker deserves a chance to be given an alternative to be able to stop smoking.” “Public health regulators around the world are almost in agreement that vapor product alternatives are less harmful compared to cigarettes and can save the lives of many. This was also affirmed by a scientific study by public health experts in the US led by Dr. David Abrams of New York University that vaping saves lives,” she said.
Dr. Mata, an occupational medicine specialist for over 35 years, said the VNP bill is in line with the THR approach that acknowledges the role of less harmful products in lessening the impact of tobacco on public health.
“This bill offers the Philippines an opportunity to drastically reduce smoking rate which still affects more than a quarter of our adult population. This is why the VNP bill will be a landmark legislation and an important legacy that the current administration can leave for the current and future generation,” explained Dr. Mata.
Strong protection for minors
Results of a 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey showed that more than 16 million Filipinos adults continued to use tobacco, with the proportion of smokers who successfully quit in the past 12 months remaining at only 4 percent. Globally, smoking kills 8 million people a year, according to the World Health Organization.
The VNP bill has strong provisions that protect minors from accessing and consuming the vaporized nicotine products. Specifically, it prohibits the sale to and use by minors, and the sale, advertising and promotion of vape products within 100 meters of school perimeter and playground.
It also prohibits the use of flavor descriptors that unduly appeal to minors in vape products and the display of vape products immediately next to products of particular interest to minors.
Data show that a million former Filipino smokers already switched to vaping products.
Business certainty for responsible companies
The passage of the VNP bill paves the way for responsible technology companies that manufacture and sell e-cigarettes to enter the Philippine market and provide over a million Filipino smokers who have already switched to heated tobacco products, and millions of others planning to do so, access to innovative and effective electronic cigarettes.