By Chito Chavez
Opposing groups continue to debate the government stance on electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes and its impact on public health.
One group insists that e-cigarettes are a viable option to stopping conventional smoking, while the other group claims this alternative also has the same hazardous effects as tobacco.
Local vaping groups maintained the government should trek the path of the United Kingdom with its relaxed regulations on e-cigarettes, insisting that these have reduced the harms associated with tobacco use and help more people quit smoking.
However, Emer Rojas, president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), remains steadfast in its lobbying for government to prohibit e-cigarettes in the country until its safety is fully determined by expert studies.
Rojas noted that the Department of Health (DOH) had already issued a statement that the reduced harm of e-cigarettes is “unsubstantiated and remain unproven.”
On the other hand, Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA), said at a recent forum in Quezon City that the Philippines will remain a backwater country in the area of tobacco harm reduction if the DOH continues its supposed “ill-informed and myopic position” on e-cigarettes.
“It’s high time that the Department of Health take its cue from the UK and other countries that have acknowledged the growing body of scientific evidence supporting e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction,” Dulay said.
Published recently by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, the report titled “E-cigarettes” concluded that e-cigarettes should not be treated in the same way as conventional cigarettes, noting that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than conventional cigarettes.
Tool for quitting
In its Tobacco Control Plan 2017-2022, the UK government clearly stated its intention to support consumers in stopping smoking and adopting the use of less harmful nicotine products, particularly e-cigarettes.
However, the parliamentary report pointed out that, “e-cigarettes… are too often being overlooked as a stop smoking tool by the NHS (National Health Service, the UK public healthcare system). Regulations should be relaxed relating to e-cigarettes’ licensing, prescribing and advertising of their health benefits. Their level of taxation and use in public places must be reconsidered.”
According to the report, around 2.9 million people in the UK are currently using e-cigarettes, with an estimated 470,000 using e-cigarettes as a stop smoking tool and tens of thousands successfully quitting smoking each year as a result.
The report called on the UK government to consider risk-based regulation to allow more freedom to advertise e-cigarettes as the relatively less harmful option, and provide financial incentives, in the form of lower levels of taxation, for smokers to switch from conventional cigarettes to less harmful alternatives such as e-cigarettes.