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‘Smokers’ lives matter, too’: Top docs back Vape Bill, slam holdouts

February 3, 2022 Dennis F. Fetalino 436 views

Dennis FetalinoI HAVE discovered the Holy Grail of science, Mr. Laurent. I give life. The Agnates… they’re simply tools, instruments. They have no souls. The possibilities are endless here. In two years’ time, I will be able to cure children’s leukemia. How many people on Earth can say that, Mr. Laurent? – The Island

Covid-19 has been taking lives in the country for the last 24 months, but with the death tally steadily going down — it was 43 on Wednesday from Tuesday’s 51.

Smoking has been around for the longest time but is clocking a daily death toll of 300.

This staggering statistic alone makes a compelling moral case for the presidential signing into law of a bill broadly acknowledged as a landmark “anti-smoking” legislation.

The Department of Health on Wednesday reported 7,661 new coronavirus infections nationwide, another drop in the number of cases from Tuesday’s 9,493.

It reported 23,392 new recoveries, a slight reduction from Tuesday’s 24,210, and recorded 43 new deaths, lower than Tuesday’s 51.

Covid-19 has been around for only two years.

On Jan. 30, 2020, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization director-general, declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, WHO’s highest level of alarm

On the other hand, around 300 Filipinos die of smoking complications everyday. or close to 100,000 every year.

WHO data showed that the country has around 16 million smokers with an annual quit rate of just four percent.

The estimated 100,000 who die every year succumb to smoking-related diseases.

Vapor products have been scientifically proven to be less harmful alternatives to cigarettes.

The bicameral conference committee report on Senate Bill 2239 and House Bill 9007 bans the sale of vapor products to minors and imposes a fine and imprisonment for violators.

It also mandates the printing of health warnings on the packaging of products to ensure that consumers are aware of the accompanying risks on the use of said products. There is also mandatory product registration to ensure that only registered products that are compliant with national standards are sold in the market.

The Vape Bill is viewed as a historic legislation, being the first comprehensive law to regulate vape products that will give access to the 16 million Filipino smokers to alternatives to smoking while at the same time providing very strict safeguards to ensure that minors and non-smokers do not have access to these products.

“If we do not pass the Vape Bill, there will be another 100,000 Filipinos who will die of smoking-related diseases for the year 2022. It is for this reason I support the passage of the Vape Bill,” said Dr. Arleen Reyes, past president of the Philippine Dental Association.

Most smokers support the regulation of the Vape Bill. A survey conducted by ACORN Marketing & Research Consultants, the largest independent Asian research network, found that 94 percent of Filipinos agree that the government should enact policies to encourage adult smoker

Considering the dire statistics, the rush job is to get them off traditional combustible cigarettes and start them on a permanent, irreversible shift to less harmful tobacco products already available in the market.

But the great crossover can only happen with a proportionately massive mind reset about the relative safety of the option now open to smokers wanting to quit and the urgency of making the big switch now – not a minute longer.

While most smokers are already keenly aware of so-called vapor or heat-not-burn tobacco products already out in the market, they still need to lean on or be convinced by a preponderance of expert health or medical findings before making the leap across the fence into the promised safer grounds.

Well, Ped Xing is happy to inform them that indeed a fest-growing corps of health science experts are getting on board the bandwagon blazing the regulatory pathway for Vaporized Nicotine or Heated Tobacco Products.

True, there are “holdouts” in the vast medical community, but their ranks are fast thinning out.

Several leading Filipino doctors have thrown their support for the so-called Vape Bill recently ratified by Congress, saying the regulation of less harmful alternatives to traditional or combustible cigarettes would be a major triumph for public health in the country.

“The logical conclusion is that vapor products will save the lives of 16 million Filipino smokers or at the very least reduce their health risks. Therefore, regulation and not prohibition is key. This is what the Vape Bill seeks to do. The Vape Bill is clearly a big win for public health. Those who would like to ban vaping may indirectly be supporting smoking. We don’t want that,” said Dr. Fernando Fernandez, secretary general of the Asia Pacific Dental Federation and the past president of the PDA.

Fernandez, an oral and maxilla-facial surgery expert, is an anti-smoking advocate for many decades who has seen what smoking does for patients who develop oral cancer.

“I hate cigarettes and smoking. period. However, despite all our efforts in the medical community, the cases of oral cancer are still at an alarming rate. Many Filipino smokers will continue to get this disease if we don’t act now,” he said.

He debunked the misinformation spread by other medical professionals who are against the landmark bill and said their personal beliefs do not represent the consensus of all doctors in the country.

The former APDF and PDA official said those who push for a vape ban may even be unwittingly supporting smoking, noting that a number of medical practitioners in the country, in fact, now support robust scientific findings of public health authorities in the United States, United Kingdom, and the European Union that vapes are much better alternative to cigarettes.

“It is unfortunate that some in the medical profession are making this a political issue. Let’s all be professional and focus on the scientific discourse. The science has become extremely strong in recent years that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes,” Fernandez said.

Many doctors have also recognized the global scientific consensus, including those from the UK’s Public Health England which found vapor products to be less harmful than cigarettes.

According to Dr. Christian Luna, medical director of the Tulay Lingap Ni Padre Pio Surgicenter, cigarettes are the “real enemy” while vapor products are less harmful alternatives that can help end smoking in the country.

“All of us in the medical community are united in our fight against smoking and seeing the end of the smoking epidemic for good. Thus, the government should regulate, and not ban, alternatives to cigarettes that are proven to be less harmful whether it is a nicotine patch, nicotine gum, vapor products or heated tobacco products. I think this is what the Vape Bill aims to do, and, hence, I express support for this measure,” said Luna.

Dr. Romeo Luna Jr., a top eye doctor and president of the San Juan City Medical Center Staff Association, noted that current smoking-cessation strategies failed to prevent smokers from quitting.

Luna said he lost relatives and friends because he could not make them stop smoking.

“The grim reality today is that there are still 16 million Filipino smokers, and many of them will not stop smoking. As a medical practitioner, it is my duty to give them an alternative to make them stop smoking. That’s why I support the passage of the Vape Bill because it is our best hope to stop the smoking epidemic,’’ he said.

Vaping helped thousands of former smokers quit, and one of them is Dr. Telesforo Gana, past president of the Philippine Urological Association and past chairman of the Philippine Board of Urology.

“It took me a very long time to stop smoking. Without vapor products, I would not have been able to fully stop. The reality is, many smokers will try to stop smoking, but will never be successful.

That is what the WHO data say,” Gana said.

“Smoker’s lives matter, too. We should not look at them as statistics. We need to have a pragmatic solution to end the smoking epidemic. I hope the Vape Bill can be that solution so we can save the lives of 16 million Filipino smokers,” he said.

Doctors also noted the strong provisions in the Vape Bill that are designed to protect minors.

“There is no debate that vapor products should not be sold to minors or non-smokers and that this should be properly regulated. Hence, I fully support the inclusion of all necessary safeguards in the Vape Bill to protect minors and non-smokers,” said Reyes.

The former lady PDA chief predicted: “With the passage of the Vape Bill, I am hopeful that it is only a matter of time that we will see a significant reduction of our country’s smoking rates and smoking-related deaths and sickness.”

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause, ponder, act, and pray, people.