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Industry group says vape bill will save lives, safeguard jobs and investment

Republika

The largest umbrella organization of local businesses and industries threw its support for the enactment of the vape bill which it said will protect jobs and investment and save the lives of millions of Filipino smokers with the help of less harmful alternatives to cigarettes.

The Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), composed of 168 organizations and companies from various industries, in a letter addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte on January 31, 2022, said the vape bill will establish clear and effective regulations for less harmful alternatives to combusted cigarettes covering importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, promotion and consumption.

At the same time, the FPI said the enactment of the vape bill will “provide a sweet spot for achieving the government’s revenue and health objectives”, noting that the measure will save the lives of millions of Filipino smokers with the help of less harmful alternatives, while safeguarding local employment and investments.

“By ensuring that only the Department of Trade and Industry-registered and Bureau of Internal Revenue-compliant products are allowed to be sold, advertised or distributed through lawful means, illicit trade of these products as well as their unintended use are minimized, if not totally eradicated,” the FPI said in the letter coursed through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza, chairman of the FPI, signed the letter which calls on the President to sign the vape bill into law.  The vape bill was earlier ratified by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“As we are a staunch ally for the advancement of domestic industries, especially small and medium enterprises, FPI would like to take this opportunity to humbly urge His Excellency to enact into law the vape bill,” the FPI said in the letter.

The measure 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 FPI acknowledged the provisions in the bill that aim to control illicit trade and promote a level playing field between foreign and domestic manufacturers, importers and exporters of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products.

It empowers the Department of Trade and Industry to recall or confiscate non-compliant products sold both online and in-store and the BIR to prescribe a floor price for the products.

The FPI said the regulation of online sales under the vape bill is timely given the widespread shift to e-commerce from traditional trade channels.

“These new reforms would make it difficult for unscrupulous, unregistered, and non-tax paying traders to peddle their smuggled goods to innocent consumers. All these also guarantee correct, adequate and stable collection of taxes for the government, while at the same time safeguarding local employment and investment of legitimate industries,” the FPI said.

The FPI said the bill also aims to protect local jobs and businesses.  “It is imperative that the government direct the country towards continued economic stability and fiscal sustainability through policies that support local businesses and workers,” it said.

The FPI said the regulation of these less harmful alternatives will also benefit public health in the Philippines, which has a population of 16 million adult smokers.  

“Regulations of these e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products which have indications of providing reduced risks compared to cigarettes should rightly be at parity, or at least not more restrictive than cigarettes—the leading cause of preventable death in the world,” the FPI said.

There are 16 million smokers in the Philippines, based on the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey.  Majority of them (76.7 percent) planned or thought about quitting, but only 4 percent managed to abandon smoking.   The vape bill aims to enable more smokers to quit, with the help of less harmful alternatives.

Vapes are at least 95-percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes, according to the Public Health England. Countries such as the UK that adopted progressive policies on vaping registered faster decline in smoking rates compared to other nations.

The group also expressed support for provisions in the bill that limit the use of the new products to adult smokers.  Among the vape bill’s key features are the prohibition of sale to and marketing initiatives targeting or appealing to minors, and the relevant hefty fines and imprisonment on violators.

The vape bill bans the sale, advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes and HTPs within 100 meters from any school, playground or other facilities frequented by minors.

“Our time-honored advocacy extends, not only to the welfare of Philippine industries, but also to their stakeholders including adult smokers and minors,” the FPI said.

Arranza said FPI endeavors to serve as the voice of Philippine industries and become an effective partner of the government in promoting and developing globally competitive Philippine industries. The FPI proactively recommends legislation to enhance economic development and inform members and the public about economic issues and policies which affect business directions.

“It is our desire to work hand in hand with the Office of the President to create a globally competitive Philippines grounded on effective legislation,” he said.


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