My parents, the Prez, and the ‘magic pill’ bill

January 21, 2022 Dennis F. Fetalino 330 views

Dennis Fetalino“ Always walk towards open doors. And if they slam shut in your face, kick that sucker in and keep going. — — Richard Gere

I come from a family of smokers.

I lost both my parents to illnesses largely linked to consumption of combustible tobacco products.

My mother died 20 years ago after years of hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney malfunction, and decades of smoking. She was 71 when she suffered a massive stroke.

The end was swift for her as she quietly “woke up to the big sleep” one night at the hospital on Aug. 7, 2001.

She had previously lost three younger brothers, also smokers, to either hypertension, heart disease or stroke.

My father, finding life uninteresting without her, followed suit about a decade later. He died of emphysema at 80. He got started on cigarettes at 14.

It was a painful, protracted, terrible way for him to go.

Quite ironically, his older, non-smoking siblings lived longer, one even living to the ripe age of 94.

Smoked, hung high, and dried.

Their generation had no chance, no hope.

Why? Because they had no choice.

They never lived long enough to find out that there is a way to maximize pleasure and minimize pain in consuming tobacco products.

Quite unfortunately for them, they were already heading for the “departure area” when tobacco-harm reducing technology was emerging while enabling legislation was only recently coming to the fore.

The current generation of tobacco consumers, however, have a fighting chance.

They can indulge in their pleasures with less concerns about harmful consequences.

And their journey to that road less perilous now rests in the hands of one man – the most powerful person in the land.

By simply setting pen to paper, he can save the lives of millions, including even his own and those of his family.

In fact, the official act should be personal gesture of contrition as he had been a smoker himself.

After all, he declared in his third State-of-the-Nation Address in 2018 that his concern was ‘human lives”.

If he still considers this concern urgent then as it is now, signing the so-called vape bill would be the moral high ground for him tot take.

Signing it into law would permanently seal his lasting legacy as a “champion of human life” and “archnemesis of harm”.

Then he can ride into the sunset of his colorful political career with pride and peace of mind that he had indeed done the people good.

The vaporized nicotine product bill, touted to significantly reduce the smoking rate and save lives of Filipino smokers, aims to regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

Both chambers of Congress have already approved their versions of the vape bill.

The congressional bicameral conference committee on Wednesday approved the measure that would regulate the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use, and communication of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products, as well as novel tobacco products.

The panel, composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate contingents led by Deputy Speaker Wes Gatchalian and Senate President Pro Tempore Senator Ralph Recto, respectively, approved the report reconciling the disagreeing provisions of House Bill 9007 and Senate Bill 2239.

Once signed into law, the vape bill is seen to help 17 million Filipino smokers kick the habit, make less harmful alternatives to cigarettes more available, ensure the quality of VNP products in the country through proper regulation, raise additional revenues for the government, and prevent minors’ access to vape products, according to advocacy groups supporting it.

One of the bill’s supporters, cardiologist Rafael Castillo, said the vape bill is actually an “anti-smoking law.”

Castillo — who is also among the medical professionals who conducted the first local scientific study that concluded HTPs contain less harmful chemicals than cigarettes—pointed out that “the real enemy is cigarettes”.

“Cigarette is the product that is causing all these deaths, and any way we can make smokers stop using cigarettes will put smokers in a better place…The VNP bill will be the country’s first comprehensive law to regulate vapor products. Of course, the implementing rules and regulations or IRR will be crucial, but I believe the VNP bill already establishes the rules of the game,” he said.

Castillo is currently a trustee/council member of the UK-based International Society of Hypertension, and the chairman of ISH International Forum and Regional Advisory Groups.

An anti-smoking advocate for years, the cardiologist noted that the best way to save smokers is by offering them less harmful alternatives.

“I support alternative tobacco products like heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes or so-called vape products, which have been found by many scientific studies to be less harmful than cigarettes,” he said.

He stressed that the bill “offers a pragmatic middle ground and an aggressive approach to the smoking problem that shows some promise in mitigating the negative health outcomes of smoking”.

“VNP bill is actually our best chance at the moment to end the smoking epidemic for good. We’ve tried all sorts of interventions and we have to admit that they’re not working as well as we had wanted them to,” he added.

Dr. Dante Dator, former National Kidney and Transplant Institute chief executive officer and one of the country’s leading urologists, said the approval of the VNP bill by Congress is a historic win for public health, as this would substantially diminish the impact of smoking on society.

Dr. Assunta Mendoza, past chairman of the Manila Medical Center’s Department of Anesthesiology, said she has seen countless lives lost due to smoking.

“Every smoker deserves a chance to be given an alternative to be able to stop smoking. I support the government’s move to put an end to the smoking pandemic once and for all through the passage of the Vape Bill,” Mendoza said.

Dr. Lorenzo Mata, Quit for Good president, said the VNP bill, which recognizes tobacco harm reduction as a pragmatic public health approach, “will inform millions of adult Filipino smokers about less harmful alternatives that are available and should be available to them, while the youth and non-smokers are protected”.

“This bill offers the Philippines an opportunity to drastically reduce smoking rate which still affects more than a quarter of our adult population. This is why the VNP bill will be a landmark legislation and an important legacy that the current administration can leave for the current and future generation,” Mata, an occupational medicine specialist for over 35 years, said.

Department of Health data showed that more than 16 million Filipinos adults use tobacco, with the proportion of smokers who successfully quit at only 4 percent. Globally, smoking kills 8 million people a year, according to the World Health Organization.

Data showed that a million former Filipino smokers already switched to e- cigs and HTPs.

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause, ponder, act, and pray, people.

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