The vape bill encourages 16 million Filipino smokers who are constantly exposed to toxins from smoke to quit, or switch to less harmful smoke-free options such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs), according to consumer advocacy groups.
Vaper AKO and Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP) said this is what the vape bill, which was ratified by Congress and is being prepared for signing by the President, hopes to achieve in support of public health.
They said that by switching to these new products which the vape bill aims to regulate, smokers have a better chance to evade serious diseases linked to smoking which kills one in two smokers.
Vaporized nicotine products have already helped more than a million former smokers including several politicians and celebrities. The Department of Health said there are a million vapers and 16 million smokers in the Philippines. The one million vapers are mostly former smokers who switched to these less harmful alternatives.
Among those who benefitted from the switch to smoke-free products are Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte, Manila Mayor Francisco ‘Isko’ Moreno Domagoso and actor Vic Sotto.
Vapes and HTPs were discovered to be significantly less harmful than combusted tobacco in various international research. Unlike cigarettes, these innovative products employ heating, instead of burning, to deliver nicotine.
Results of various scientific studies show that smoke produced by burning is the one responsible for millions of deaths globally and this could be reduced if smokers would stop smoking or switch to smoke-free or non-combustible products such as vapes and HTPs.
“The science supporting vaping and heated tobacco as less harmful alternatives to cigarettes can’t be denied anymore. Progressive countries including the US, the UK, New Zealand and many more have embraced these non-combustible alternatives, following extensive scrutiny by their respective public health institutions,” said Joaqui Gallardo, spokesman of Vaper AKO.
The United Kingdom, for one, promotes these products as less harmful options to cigarettes. This followed the recommendation of the Public Health England which found that vapor products are at least 95-percent less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
In the US, the Food and Drugs Administration confirmed that nicotine is not the primary cause of smoking related diseases but the smoke from combustion.
“In the Philippines, more than a million former smokers have made the switch. No less than the President’s son, Vice-Mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte has openly switched to a heated tobacco product,” said Gallardo.
Manila Mayor and presidential candidate Isko Moreno is also among the many former smokers who switched to heated tobacco, according to the Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP).
“More and more adult smokers who had no success in quitting smoking before have finally found what works for them to kick the deadly habit. A UK study concluded that non-combustible alternatives are twice as effective compared to nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers quit,” NCUP president Anton Israel said.
“More than a million vapers have already left smoking behind with the help of vapes and heated tobacco products. Si Mayor Isko nga na dating gumagamit ng Marlboro, ngayon nag-IQOS (heated tobacco product) na for his health (Even Mayor Isko, who was a former Marlboro smoker, has switched to IQOS for his health),” he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III also named his brother—TV host and comedian Vic Sotto—as among the former smokers who stopped with the help of heated tobacco product. He said this is one of the reasons he supported the approval of the vape bill.
“I have a personal reason for voting yes. My brother was a heavy smoker for 45 years. When he switched to heated tobacco, he has stopped completely smoking and is very healthy,” Sotto said in defending his vote in favor of the vape bill.
Sotto said the vape bill was specifically passed to provide smokers with alternatives to traditional cigarettes, and to discourage minors and non-smokers from using these products.
In January 2022, Congress ratified the vape bill to regulate e-cigarettes and HTPs, while providing 16 million adult Filipino smokers with less harmful alternatives. It is also designed to stop the sale of unregulated and illegal products that do not meet government standards and do not contribute taxes to the government.
Under the bill, the Department of Trade and Industry will properly regulate the sale and use of these products and raise more taxes in support of the Universal Health Care program.
The bill has strong provisions to protect minors from accessing and consuming these products. It bans the sale to and use by minors, and the sale, advertising and promotion of vape products within 100 meters of school perimeter and playground.
The use of flavor descriptors that unduly appeal to minors in vape products and the display of vape products immediately next to products of particular interest to minors are prohibited.
It will also include the Philippines in the list of countries adopting proper regulatory framework on new nicotine products. Countries with progressive policies around vaping have seen their smoking rates fall twice as fast as other countries.
Dr. Fernando Fernandez, Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Dental Federation and the past president of the Philippine Dental Association, described the vape bill as a big win for public health.
A study by ACORN Marketing & Research Consultants, an independent Asian research network, shows that 94 percent of Filipinos agree that the government should enact policies to encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful tobacco alternatives.