The country’s largest umbrella group of industry organizations expressed support for the vape bill which will regulate less harmful alternatives to cigarettes and support the generation of local jobs, while saving the lives of millions of Filipino smokers.
The Federation of Philippine Industries sent a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte on January 31, 2022 in support of the vape bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives recently.
“It is imperative that the government direct the country towards continued economic stability and fiscal sustainability through policies that support local businesses and workers,” the FPI said.
Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza, chairman of the FPI, said the vape bill would establish clear and effective regulations of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and other less harmful alternatives to combusted cigarettes.
The bill, once signed into law by the president, will regulate the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use and consumption of these new nicotine products.
FPI is the umbrella group of 168 organizations and companies from various Philippine industries. The group serves as the voice of Philippine industries and an effective partner of the government in promoting and developing globally competitive Philippine industries.
“As we are a staunch ally for the advancement of domestic industries, especially small and medium enterprises, FPI would like to take this opportunity to humbly urge His Excellency to enact into law the vape bill,” the FPI said in the letter.
The bill consolidates Senate Bill No. 2239 or the “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act” and House Bill No. 9007 or the “Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act”.
The Senate and the House of Representatives ratified in January 2022 the bicameral conference committee report on the vape bill which provides smokers with viable alternatives such as vapes and HTPs that are considered less harmful when compared to combusted cigarettes.
About 16 million Filipinos are regulars of cigarettes. Of the total, 76.7 percent planned or thought about quitting, but only 4 percent succeeded. The vape bill hopes to make more adult smokers quit by switching to e-cigarettes and HTPs.
The FPI said that as the prime mover of Philippine industries responsive to the challenges of the global economy, it strongly supports the vape bill’s overwhelming approval in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
It said the regulations of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products which have indications of providing reduced risks compared to cigarettes should rightly be at parity, or at least not more restrictive than cigarettes—the leading cause of preventable death in the world.
Vapes are at least 95-percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes, according to Public Health England. In the United Kingdom, health authorities promote e-cigarettes as less harmful options to cigarettes.
The UK and other countries that adopted tobacco harm reduction policies saw their smoking rates decline twice as fast as other nations, according to scientific studies.
The entry of less harmful alternatives in the Philippines will be good for public health, considering the lives of 16 million Filipino smokers, according to the FPI. It said the vape bill will regulate this new industry that can raise more taxes for the government.
“The enactment of the vape bill will provide a sweet spot for achieving the government’s revenue and health objectives,” it said.
The FPI also expressed support for the bill’s prohibition on the use of these new products by minors. The bill bans the sale to and marketing initiatives targeting or appealing to minors and imposes hefty fines and imprisonment for non-compliance.
“In fact, the vape bill bans the sale, advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes and HTPs within 100 meters from any school, playground or other facilities frequented by minors,” the FPI said.
The FPI said its advocacy extends, not only to the welfare of Philippine industries but also to stakeholders including adult smokers and minors.
It cited the provisions in the vape bill that seek to combat illicit trade and promote a level playing field between and among foreign and domestic manufacturers, importers and exporters of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products.
The FPI said that “by ensuring that only the Department of Trade and Industry-registered and Bureau of Internal Revenue-compliant products are allowed to be sold, advertised or distributed through lawful means, illicit trade of these products as well as their unintended use are minimized, if not totally eradicated.”
It said the vape bill empowers the DTI to order a recall or seizure of non-compliant products sold both online and in-store. Together with the authorization of the BIR to prescribe a floor price for these products—regulation of online sales by the vape bill is considered timely given the widespread shift to e-commerce from traditional trade channels.
The FPI said these provisions would make it difficult for unscrupulous, unregistered and non-taxpaying traders to peddle their smuggled goods to innocent consumers.
“All these also guarantee correct, adequate and stable collection of taxes for the government, while at the same time safeguarding local employment and investment of legitimate industries,” the group said.
“It is our desire to work hand in hand with the Office of the President to create a globally competitive Philippines grounded on effective legislation,” it said.
The FPI said its expression of support for the vape bill is in line with its advocacy to proactively recommend legislation enhancing economic development and informing members and the public about economic issues and policies which affect business directions.