Consumer groups denounced Food and Drug Administration director-general Rolando Domingo for openly describing organizers of an anti-vaping event as “our friends,” months after he assured the House of Representatives that the regulatory agency would be fair and objective in regulating e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in the country.
Domingo, in a virtual anti-vaping event, identified the organizers as his friends. “Mga kaibigan natin ito. Tulung-tulong sa trabaho,” he was quoted as saying.
“This has solidified our suspicion that the FDA is biased against vaping. How could it objectively regulate e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products in the Philippines when Director-General Domingo has made known his position against these less harmful products which have succeeded in switching smokers away from cigarettes in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada and New Zealand?” asked Anton Israel, president of the Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines.
The FDA is in charge of issuing the implementing rules and regulations of several laws that allow the use of vapor products and HTPs, which are considered less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes. But the agency’s role was questioned by several congressmen who revealed the FDA received thousands of dollars from charities funded by anti-vaping US billionaire Michael Bloomberg.
Domingo, who attended the virtual anti-vaping event on Sept. 14, 2021, was also criticized for calling on the senators to reconsider their position on Senate Bill No. 2239, or the proposed Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act. He claimed the “the proliferation of novel and emerging tobacco products, such as electronic-nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems, and the heated tobacco products in the Philippine market present health risks to the general public.”
Israel reminded Domingo that tobacco harm reduction, along with human right to health, is the fourth pillar of the World Health Organization-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. “As a regulatory agency, the FDA should regulate new products based on existing laws, and not restrict them. These less harmful products are supposed to provide 16 million Filipino smokers better options, so that they have a choice,” Israel said.
Israel reiterated that the quit-or-die approach, prescribed by some health authorities, non-profit organizations and self-righteous billionaires, is an extremist ideology that has no room in modern public health strategies.
“The last thing our public health needed is an FDA that has shown its bias against vaping, which no less than the Public Health England found to be at least 95-percent less harmful than combustible cigarettes. We should also remember that the FDA admitted having received money from The Union, a foreign non-government organization funded by Bloomberg Initiative,” said Israel.