By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Friday threw his full support to President Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) that regulates e-cigarettes, vapes, and other novel tobacco products.
EO No. 106, which President Duterte signed earlier, prohibits the importation, manufacture, distribution, marketing, and sale of unregistered electronic nicotine delivery systems and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS), heated tobacco products (HTPs), and other novel tobacco products.
The EO also amends EO No. 26 issued in 2017, particularly on the (i) coverage as to include ENDS/ENNDS, HTPs, other novel tobacco products and their components; (ii) expanded list of prohibited acts; (iii) standards of designated smoking/vaping areas; (iv) expansion of duties of persons-in-charge; (v) expansion of the smoking cessation program to include vaping; and (vi) expansion of the mandate of the Smoke-Free Task Force to include vapes.
“It is good that there is a strict regulation that authorities can use in controlling e-cigarettes,” Go said in Filipino.
“As chairman of the Senate health committee, I support measures that protect the health of our citizens. The health of every Filipino is important because they are the foundation of a better future,” Go added.
The senator, a former special assistant to President Duterte, initially spoke about recommending to the President the need to regulate e-cigarettes or vapes.
The Department of Health (DOH) has been pushing for a ban on e-cigarettes, stating that there is still no evidence to support claims that the devices do not cause harmful effects on human health nor are they a better alternative to conventional nicotine products, such as tobacco cigarettes.
Go explained that smoking, in all forms and manner, is a public health issue and it adversely affects almost everyone around a smoker, even those who do not smoke at all.
He said that this poses serious health risks and anyone admitted for smoking-related illnesses, particularly those with limited financial capacity, also puts pressure on government resources related to healthcare.
He stressed the need for the public to be more cautious in using these products because of the limited knowledge available on its potential adverse effects.
“I echo the advice of health officials and experts for the public to refrain from using vapes or e-cigarettes as the knowledge on the products is still limited,” he said.
Go expressed concern on how the unregulated use of these products easily reached the hands of minors and posed health risks to communities.
“We will not allow the unregulated use of these products and how it is easily accessed by minors,” he added.
“Let’s give importance to the welfare of our young and the rights of those near them and their right to live a healthy life. We implore you not to use e-cigarettes because this may lead to addiction and affect your fellowmen,” Go said.
Go added that it is his duty to ensure that necessary health services as well as information and regulations on health concerns are easily accessible to protect the Filipino people.
“This is one of our priorities in the Senate and I will not hesitate to sponsor such measure that would regulate e-cigarettes in the country,” he said.
Go also emphasized that between profit and health, the health, safety, and security of Filipinos remain his top priority.
The EO also provides that all e-liquids, solutions, or refills forming components of ENDS/ENNDS or HTPs shall be registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Meanwhile, all devices forming components of ENDS/ENNDS or HTPs shall be subject to the product standards imposed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and FDA. Other novel tobacco products shall be regulated by the Inter-Agency Committee-Tobacco (IAC-T).
The EO further provides that all establishments engaged in the manufacture, distribution, importation, marketing and sale of these products will be required to secure a license to operate from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA).
The EO also prohibits the entry/importation of unregistered or adulterated ENDS/ENNDS, HTPs or components thereof and directs the FDA and DTI to coordinate with the Bureau of Customs on the guidelines for the regulation of the entry of products or their components into the Philippine market.
Some prohibited acts stated are (1) smoking/vaping within enclosed public places and public conveyances, except in Designated Smoking/Vaping Areas (DSVA); (2) for persons-in-charge to allow, abet or tolerate smoking/vaping in places outside of DSVAs; (3) for any person to sell, distribute, or purchase tobacco products to or from minors, or ENDS/ENNDS, HTPS, or their components to or from persons below 21 years old; among others.
It also prohibits placing any form of advertisement of tobacco products, ENDS/ENNDS, HTPs, or their components outside the premises of point-of-sale retail establishments; failure to mark containers and packages of ENDS/ENNDS, HTPs, and the components thereof, with appropriate health warnings; and incorporating e-liquids, solutions, and refills with flavors and additives that are proven or suspected to be appealing or enticing to persons below 21 years of age, toxic, harmful, addictive or sensitizing.