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Child rights advocates to Wes Gatchalian: Vape Bill to endanger – rather than protect – minors

June 11 – Child Rights Network (CRN) objected to House Deputy Speaker Wes Gatchalian’s latest defense of the consolidated House Bill 9007 and Senate Bill 2239 or the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Bill, which stated that the bill strikes “a good balance between protecting minors and giving adult smokers a chance to leave their deadly habit behind.”

“What the esteemed deputy speaker seeks to obfuscate is the fact that the Vape Bill essentially relaxes existing regulations on the sale, distribution, use, and promotion of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes, and vaporized nicotine products (VNPs), tilting the balance towards the profit-seeking tobacco industry at the expense of minors,” said CRN convenor Romeo Dongeto.

In a statement, Gatchalian said that the Vape Bill “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.”

“Mentioning the words ‘strengthen’ and ‘president’ in one sentence is a weak attempt at pandering to President Duterte, who has yet to see the bill in question. Rep. Gatchalian is toeing the tobacco industry line of tackling the issue at hand primarily as an industry regulation issue, and not as a health issue. In effect, the lawmaker is invalidating the voluminous expert opinion that runs counter to the Vape Bill, just because the opposition centers on health,” Dongeto explained.

‘Vape regulation primarily a health issue’

“If we return to looking at the Vape Bill as a health issue, we will see that it doesn’t strike any balance at all, contrary to what certain lawmakers surmise. Case in point: the consolidated bill lowers the age restriction for accessing e-cigarettes from age 21 to 18, setting aside the proposal of several health experts to maintain 21 years old, which is the existing age restriction based on Republic Act 11467,” Dongeto explained.

Despite putting several restrictions on flavor descriptors for ENDS and VNPs, the consolidated bill gives a free pass to producers to use addictive flavors that attract use among the younger generation, and even allows the online sale and advertisement of e-cigarettes.

The WHO and DOH, along with medical experts in the Philippines, have both repeatedly cautioned the public regarding harmful chemicals in ENDS and VNPs such as nicotine, ultra-fine particles, carcinogens, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds. Results generated from peer-reviewed studies show that e-cigarette juices contain high levels of addictive nicotine, which can result in acute or even fatal poisoning through ingestion and other means.

“There is still hope. The Vape Bill is not yet law. We again call on the president to veto this bill and let the welfare of children and youth weigh heavier than the influence of big tobacco. Let us not wait until reports of its detrimental effects on children and the youth proliferate. Before the use of e-cigarettes becomes a full-blown public crisis, may this pressing public health issue sound the alarms and compel the president to act decisively, despite all the lies and euphemisms being peddled around,” Dongeto ended.

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