The vape bill is expected to lead to a dramatic decrease in smoking prevalence in the Philippines, by giving 16 million smokers less harmful options such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products and leading them away from serious illnesses and even death.
Several consumer groups said the overwhelming approval of the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation bill in the Senate and the House of Representative would translate into a major public health gain for 16 million smokers in the country.
More than a million former smokers have already switched to less harmful alternatives, including politicians and celebrities, according to Vaper AKO and Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines.
Vaper AKO and NCUP made this statement to highlight how less harmful options enabled the President’s son, Davao Vice Mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte, Manila Mayor and presidential candidate Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko’ Moreno Domagoso and actor Vic Sotto to stop smoking and return to healthier and normal lives.
“The science supporting vaping and heated tobacco as less harmful alternatives to cigarettes can’t be denied anymore. Progressive countries including the US, the UK, New Zealand and many more have embraced these non-combustible alternatives, following extensive scrutiny by their respective public health institutions,” said Joaqui Gallardo, spokesman of Vaper AKO.
The vape bill, which was ratified by Congress last month and is ready for signing by the President, aims to regulate vaporized nicotine products and provide 16 million Filipino adult smokers with less harmful alternatives to combusted cigarettes.
Public Health England, the highest health authority in the United Kingdom, said vapor products are at least 95-percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes, while the US Food and Drugs Administration said nicotine is not the primary cause of smoking related diseases, but the smoke from combustion.
Scientific studies show that the smoke produced by burning is the one responsible for millions of deaths globally and this could be reduced if smokers would stop smoking or switch to smoke-free or non-combustible products.
“In the Philippines, more than a million former smokers have made the switch. No less than the President’s son, Vice-Mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte has openly switched to a heated tobacco product,” said Gallardo.
The NCUP said other political leaders such as the mayor of Manila and presidential candidate Isko Moreno switched to these alternative products.
“More and more adult smokers who had no success in quitting smoking before have finally found what works for them to kick the deadly habit. A UK study concluded that non-combustible alternatives are twice as effective compared to nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers quit,” NCUP president Anton Israel said.
“This is evident even here in the Philippines. More than a million vapers have already left smoking behind with the help of vapes and heated tobacco products. Si Mayor Isko nga na dating gumagamit ng Marlboro, ngayon nag-IQOS (heated tobacco product) na for his health (Even Mayor Isko, who was a former Marlboro smoker, has switched to IQOS for his health),” Israel said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who voted in favor of the vape bill, said his own brother—TV host and comedian Vic Sotto—was able to abandon smoking with the help of heated tobacco product.
“I have a personal reason for voting yes. My brother was a heavy smoker for 45 years. When he switched to heated tobacco, he has stopped completely smoking and is very healthy,” Sotto said in justifying his vote for Senate Bill 2239.
A study by ACORN Marketing & Research Consultants, an independent Asian research network, found that 94 percent of its Filipino respondents want the government to enact policies to encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful tobacco alternatives.
The vape bill is also expected to end to the sale of unregulated and illegal products that do not contribute excise taxes to the government. Once signed into law, the government will properly regulate the sale and use of these products and provide a new revenue stream for public coffers in support of the Universal Health Care program.
It will also elevate the Philippines to the list of progressive countries which recognize tobacco harm reduction as a public health strategy. International studies show that countries which adopted progressive policies around vaping have seen their smoking rates fall twice as fast as other countries.
Sotto dispelled concerns over the possible abuse of these products by minors. He said the vape bill was designed to provide smokers with alternatives to traditional cigarettes, and not to encourage the youth and non-smokers to use these products.
Congress made sure the vape bill will prevent minors from accessing and consuming these products. The bill specifically bans the sale to and use by minors, and the sale, advertising and promotion of vape products within 100 meters of school perimeter and playground.
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 are prohibited.
The vape bill also ensures that these smoke-free products are registered with and regulated by the Department of Trade and Industry, thereby preventing smuggling and illicit trade of substandard nicotine products.
It will also support the livelihood of 2.7 million Filipino farmers and workers who depend on the tobacco industry.
Dr. Fernando Fernandez, Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Dental Federation and the past president of the Philippine Dental Association, described the vape bill as a big win for public health as this would encourage more smokers to quit. A study shows that while more than 76 percent of smokers in the country wanted to quit, only 4 percent were able to do so.