THE enactment of a vape bill by the Senate and the House of Representatives will save lives and help spare millions of Filipinos from a lifetime of smoking by providing them less harmful alternatives according to nine out of 10 Filipino smokers.
The study, conducted by ACORN Marketing & Research Consultants and commissioned by consumer advocacy group Vapers PH in August 2021, reveals that 94 percent of 2,000 respondents agree that the government should enact policies to encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, while also ensuring these products are not used by the youth or those below 18 years.
ACORN is the largest independent Asian research network with full-service offices in 11 Asian countries, including the Philippines. It conducted the survey about the attitudes of Filipino tobacco and nicotine consumers from August 3 to 15, 2021, with a sample size of 2,000 legal-age smokers.
Results of the survey show that 90 percent of respondents believe that the government should come up with new ways to reduce the harm caused by smoking cigarettes.
This sentiment is shared among the senators who overwhelmingly approved on third and final reading Senate Bill No. 2239, or the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation bill, last month. Once signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte, the Vaporized Nicotine Products Bill will regulate e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products (HTPs) and other vaporized nicotine products while ensuring that they contribute to government revenues.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, the main sponsor of SB 2239, said, “It is good public policy for people smoking to shift to these types [vaporized nicotine] of products” as “there will be less death and less expense on the part of society in treating patients.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he has a personal reason for voting “yes” for the bill. “My brother was a heavy smoker for 45 years. When he switched to heated tobacco now, he has stopped completely smoking and is very healthy,” he said.
Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said electronic nicotine products e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products could serve as alternatives to cigarettes. “There’s an alternative; until they finally get off these gadgets, let’s give them an alternative to a better life,” Zubiri said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he supported SB 2239 in the hope that it could further bring down the incidence of cigarette smoking in the Philippines. “My vote is for those who want to quit cigarette smoking and turn to vapes and e-cigarettes as cessation aids. If vaporized nicotine products can help millions quit cigarette smoking, then I am willing to give it a chance,” Drilon said in casting his vote in favor of the Vape Bill.
Senator Sonny Angara expressed hope that cigarette smoking addiction would be mitigated by a switch to vaporized or vaping products. “There is anecdotal evidence to that effect from many personal colleagues, even from one of our colleagues,” he said.
Senator Richard Gordon said, “there is no justification for smoking, and the only justification is free will. On the other hand, I have a lot of friends who have switched to vaping. And vaping is a soft landing for them.”
Public Health England, the highest health authority in the United Kingdom, acknowledged that e-cigarettes are 95-percent less harmful than tobacco. About a million former Filipino smokers have already switched to novel smoke-free products such as electronic cigarettes and HTPs which, according to several scientific studies, are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Studies show that it is the smoke from combustion that releases harmful substances to the body, and not nicotine, which is a food-grade substance.
The House of Representatives earlier approved its own version of the measure—House Bill No. 9007 or the “Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act” on May 25, 2021. SB 2239 and HB 9007 will be reconciled by a bi-cameral conference committee and ratified by the two chambers when sessions resume after the holidays. The reconciled bill will then be submitted to the president for his approval and signature.
Intended to help adult smokers quit cigarettes, the bill has strong measures intended to protect minors from accessing and consuming the device. It ensures that minors will not have access to the vape products, as it 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 proposed measure has been discussed, tackled and debated upon for nine years, starting 2013. Dozens of similar bills have been filed over the years, until the House approved HB 9007 on third and final reading on May 25, 2021, while the Senate passed SB 2239 on third and final reading on December 16, 2021.
Consumer and tobacco harm reduction advocacy groups said the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation bill passed by the Senate last month and by the House of Representatives in May 2021 would help save the lives of 16 million Filipino smokers because legitimate alternative products will be allowed to be sold to smokers who want to stop smoking.
“We strongly believe that vaping saves lives. This is based on our experience and on scientific studies which found e-cigarettes to be 95-percent less harmful than cigarettes,” according to the groups which include Vapers PH, Vaper Ako, Smoke-Free Conversation PH, Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP), Philippine E-cigarette Industry Association (PECIA), Quit For Good, Heated Equipment as Alternative to Traditional Smoking Philippines (HEATS), PROVAPE, Philippine Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates, Inc. and Consumer Choice Philippines.
Once enacted into law, the bill is expected to reduce the smoking rate in the Philippines and provide more than 16 million Filipino smokers a way out of smoking through less harmful, smoke-free alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.