THE House of Representatives has passed on third and final reading the landmark bill that will regulate the manufacture, sale, and distribution of vapes, e-cigarettes, and other electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS) with 192 votes.
Deputy Speaker for Trade and Industry and Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian, who shepherded the public hearings of the House committee on trade and industry, said the approval of House Bill (HB) 9007 will now pave the way to curb the rampant proliferation of the illegal industry that sells ENDS, ENNDS, and heated tobacco products (HTPs) to minors even now when the country is reeling from a pandemic. He said lawfully-registered vape shops are losing revenue to an estimated 800 unregistered backyard stores.
“We would like to emphasize that this bill will serve to regulate, and not ban, the sale of these products,” Gatchalian said.
He explained that since the products come in the form of electronic devices, they will be regulated by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to protect consumers.
“Manufacturers of electrical devices intended to be used in combination with ENDS/ENNDS shall ensure that the devices they produce will comply with the applicable electrical safety standards set by the Bureau of Product Standards of the DTI,” he said.
Under the proposed measure, only persons aged 18 years old and above shall be allowed to purchase, sell, and use ENDS, ENNDS and HTPs. Moreover, Gatchalian said that the bill will also limit the flavors that entice minors to vape.
All e-liquid receptacles shall also be child-resistant, tamper-resistant, and shall be protected against breakage and leakage.
“Retailers will be required to verify the age of all buyers by requiring the presentation of any valid government-issued ID showing the buyer’s photograph and age or date of birth. Online sales will also require proof of age,” Gatchalian said.
“A person selling or distributing vape and e-cigarette products cannot use as a defense that he/she did not know or was not aware of the real age of the buyer,” he stressed.
The sale or distribution of ENDS/ENNDS or HTPs within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, playground, or other locations frequented by minors shall also be prohibited, the lawmaker said.
There are already 72 countries that regulate e-cigarettes products, 30 regard ENDS as a medicinal product and 41 of these countries regulate them as a consumer product.
Meanwhile, Gatchalian said the higher taxes on e-cigarettes is expected to largely contribute to fill the funding gap for the Universal Health Care (UHC) program of the government. President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11467 in the year 2020, which increases excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes.
The law is seen to generate a total of P108.9 billion over the next five years, Gatchalian said.
The increased excise tax on e-cigarettes will likewise enable the DOH to push through with its plans to upgrade state medical facilities and establish more hospitals in remote areas, hire and train more doctors and nurses, and scale up non-communicable disease prevention services, especially for low-income families – facilities that the country requires to aggressively combat this pandemic,” he said.
“The additional funds could also be used to help find a cure for COVID, establish facilities that would cater exclusively to COVID-19 patients in order to help decongest our hospitals, or as additional incentives for our frontline healthcare workers who risk their lives day in and day out,” he added.