/ 6 February 2022

THE SOCIAL Watch Philippines commended the Department of Education for joining the health department and civil society organizations in appealing to veto the proposed Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act or 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 SWP said in a statement.

“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.”

The SWP urged President Duterte to practice his power in vetoing the 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 Philippines, a national coalition of peoples’ organizations campaigning for a smoke-free and vape-free communities, also extended its 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 percent increase in vape use in just four years among the Filipino youth, from 11.7 percent in 2015 to 24.6 percent,” noted National Coordinator of AKTIB Philippines Sara Salvador.

“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,” Salvador said.

In a letter addressed to the President dated January 26 this year, Education Secretary Leonor Briones stressed 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 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 its recent study with the Philippine Pediatric Society to support the plea.

The study revealed 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 within 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 the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Trade and Industry.