wes gatchalian

Vape bill needed to protect Filipino youth, says House leader

June 9, 2022 People's Journal 237 views

A LAWMAKER said the country needs the Vaporized Nicotine Product (VNP) or vape bill to provide adult smokers with less harmful alternatives, while preventing minors from using these products.

“There’s no law yet that imposes stricter regulations on the importation, manufacturing, selling and advertising of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products. This is where the vape bill comes in. It spells out the regulation and penalties, including imprisonment for violators, to ensure that only adult smokers can get their hands on these less harmful alternatives,” Deputy Speaker Wes Gatchalian said in a statement.

The Vape Bill, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives, is in line with the tobacco harm reduction approach a pragmatic strategy which aims to reduce the harm from smoking.

The Philippines is among the countries that continue to register high smoking prevalence despite the various prohibitive approaches implemented by the government. Once enacted into law, the Vape Bill will regulate smoke-free alternatives to cigarettes, such as vapes and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

More than 16 million Filipinos continue to smoke, according to the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey. About 77 percent of smokers planned or thought about quitting, but only 4 percent were successful, leaving most smokers exposed to the harm of combustible cigarettes.

Gatchalian said the bill was crafted to give adult smokers an opportunity to use less harmful alternatives, while stopping minor’s access to nicotine products. “We made sure that we strike a good balance between protecting minors and giving adult smokers a chance to leave their deadly habit behind when we crafted the vape bill,” he said.

He said the measure also strengthens the provisions of Republic Act 11467, which imposes taxes on vapes and heated tobacco products, and Executive Order 106 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte that prohibits unregistered or tampered vapes and heated tobacco products.

Gatchalian said lawmakers carefully studied the bill before approving it. It took two years for the 18th Congress to finally approve the vape bill, and previous versions of the bill were filed as early as 2011 during the 16th Congress. It was only in 2022 when both houses of Congress approved a consolidated version of the landmark bill.

“The House of Representatives conducted seven technical working group hearings and three public consultations attended by medical experts and representatives of groups who are against as well as those who see the benefits of regulating science-backed innovative alternatives to address the smoking problem in the country,” he said.

Gatchalian said the final version of the bill, following the approval of the Bicameral Conference Committee, dedicated two-thirds of the provisions for the protection of minors.

These include age verification for online sales, prohibition of sales and promotion of vapes and HTPS within 100 meters from school perimeters, ban on product communications and promotions that appeal to minors, ban on the use of influencers and celebrities as product endorsers, and ban on participation of minors in vape industry events.

The bill also gives the Food and Drug administration the authority to assess and approve products with medicinal, therapeutic, and reduced risk claims, while the Department of Trade and Industry was mandated to issue product safety standards.