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Growers, farmers push regulation of cigarette alternatives to protect livelihood

February 16, 2022 People's Journal 357 views

TOBACCO farmers and growers called on President Rodrigo Duterte to enact the vape bill to protect their livelihood and for the proper regulation of cigarette alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products as part of government efforts to stop illicit trade and plug tax leaks.

Both the Philippine Tobacco Growers Association (PTGA) and the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers Associations and Cooperatives (NAFTAC) with combined 45,000 members expressed support for the vape bill which was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives to regulate less harmful alternatives to combusted cigarettes.

Philippine Tobacco Growers Association (PTGA) president Saturnino Distor said the vape bill will provide a regulatory framework to ensure that these products contribute revenues to the national coffers and support the local agriculture sector.

“Ang PTGA ay humihiling na mapirmahan ito at maging batas upang masigurado na may akmang regulasyon para sa mga bagong produktong ito. (The PTGA wishes for the signing of the Vape Bill into law to ensure there is a proper regulation for these new products),” PTGA said.

The group said the vape bill will also promote the utilization of local tobacco leaves.

“Makakatulong ito ng malaki sa aming mga magsasaka na umaasa sa tabako lalo ngayong panahon ng pandemya. (This will provide a big support to our local farmers who depend on the tobacco industry especially amid the pandemic),” PTGA said.

In a letter to President Rodrigo Duterte sent through Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea on January 13, 2021, PTGA called for the signing of the vape bill into law to regulate the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, promotion, use and consumption of e-cigarettes, HTPs and other alternatives to combusted cigarettes.

NAFTAC also sent a letter to the President on January 22, 2022 to express support for the vape bill, it said, will sustain the livelihood of tobacco farmers who are already struggling amid the pandemic.

NAFTAC said tobacco growers barely survived a number of challenges last year, including the higher excise tax imposed on tobacco which led to lower sales and farm production as well as the adverse effects of the pandemic on the economy.

It said that while the VNP Bill is meant to regulate alternative tobacco products, this will also help sustain the legitimate tobacco industry and ensure that proper taxes are collected from these new products. If signed into law, the vape bill will empower tobacco growers to become a part of the alternative tobacco product industry, which would also be derived from tobacco leaves, it said.

At present, most vaporized nicotine products are imported from other countries to the detriment of local farmers. PTGA said the vape bill will encourage sourcing of raw materials from local farmers and even enable them to tap the export market.

“Kung ang mga alternatibong produktong ito ay lalaki pa sa mga susunod na taon, mas makakabuti na ito ay may akmang regulasyon. Nais namin na kami ay maging bahagi ng potensyal na maitutulong nito hindi lang sa lokal na pangagailangan kundi pati sa posibleng pag-export nito sa ibang bansa. (If the market for these alternative products will grow in the coming years, it will be better to have proper regulation. We also want to become a part of the growth potential of these new products, not only in the local industry, but also in the export market,” PTGA said.

“Sa kalaunan at kasama ang akmang suporta, naniniwala kami na makapagbibigay din ito ng pagkakataon upang kaming mga magsasaka ay maging bahagi ng makabagong mga produktong ito na ang pangunahing sangkap ay nagmumula pa din sa tabako. Sa ngayon ay karamihan sa mga produktong ito ay inaangkat at ang mga magsasaka sa ibang bansa ang nakikinabang dito.” (We believe that with proper regulation and government support, these modern nicotine products will allow us to contribute raw materials from tobacco. At present, they are mostly imported, and it is the farmers from other countries who take advantage of these opportunities,” PTGA said.

“Naniniwala din kami na ang vape bill na ito ay magbibigay ng sapat na regulasyon na makakatulong para masiguradong nakokolekta ang tamang buwis sa mga bagong produktong ito—buwis na siya ring nakakatulong sa aming kabuhayan. (We also believe that this Vape Bill will give appropriate regulation that can help ensure the right taxes are collected from these new products—taxes that help with our livelihood),” PTGA said in a letter.

The vape bill represents hope that tobacco farmers will be able to help their families from the impact of the pandemic and the negative impact of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on the local industry, according to NAFTAC president Bernard R. Vicente.

NAFTAC said that with the help of the vape bill, they would be able to produce less harmful and more acceptable products for consumers.

“Kaya po kami ay umaasa na maipasa at maging ganap na batas na ito para mabigyan proteksyon ang aming kabuhayan at magkaroon ng isa pang produkto ng tabako na katanggap-tanggap at mas mababang epekto sa kalusugan kumpara sa tradisyunal na sigarilyo. Ang mga manufacturers ay bibili din sila sa aming produkto na tabako na isa sa kanilang mga raw materials. (We hope that the vape bill will become a law to protect our livelihood and give us new tobacco products that are more acceptable and less harmful to health compared to traditional cigarettes.

Manufacturers will eventually buy raw materials from us,” NAFTAC said.

“Kaya po aming mahal ng Pangulo, kami po’y nakikiusap at alam din namin na kayo’y nakikinig sa aming mga mahihirap sa sana po tulungan ninyo kami, bigyan niyo po ng pagkakataong maging ganap na batas ang vape bill para po magkaroon ng seguridad ang kabuhayan ng mga katulad kong magsasaka ng tabako sa Pilipinas. (We ask our dear President to listen to the voice of the poor tobacco farmers and help us by signing the vape bill into law. This will secure the livelihood of tobacco farmers in the Philippines),” said NAFTAC.

The vape bill is a consolidation of 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 Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) earlier expressed its support for the vape bill to provide a pragmatic approach to address the smoking problem that affects 16 million Filipinos, with the help of less harmful alternatives.

“The enactment of the vape bill will provide a sweet spot for achieving the government’s revenue and health objectives,” said Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza, chairman of FPI, which is considered the largest umbrella group of 168 organizations and companies from various Philippine industries.

The bill seeks 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. It ensures that only the Department of Trade and Industry-registered and Bureau of Internal Revenue-compliant products are allowed to in the market, while requiring the approval of the Food and Drug Administration for products with medicinal, therapeutic or reduced risk claims.

The vape bill aims to regulate e-cigarettes and HTPs as alternatives that can help 16 million Filipino smokers quit and save them from serious health risks.

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