Sixteen million Filipino smokers will have an opportunity to switch to significantly less harmful products compared to combusted cigarettes, once President Rodrigo Duterte signs into law the vape bill which was recently ratified by Congress.
Consumer advocacy groups said the figure, representing nearly a quarter of the adult population in the country, pertains to the number of Filipinos who regularly use cigarettes and who now have a better chance to evade serious diseases if they quit or switch to less harmful products such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) which the vape bill aims to regulate.
These vaporized nicotine products have already helped more than a million former smokers including several politicians and celebrities, according to the consumer groups.
Data from the Department of Health show that there are a million vapers and 16 million smokers in the Philippines. The one million vapors are mostly former smokers who switched to these less harmful alternatives.
The ratification of the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation bill by the Senate and the House of Representatives will help more smokers kick the habit, according to consumer groups. They said among those who benefited from the switch to these smoke-free products are Davao City Vice Mayor Sebastian ‘Baste’ Duterte, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and actor Vic Sotto.
International scientific studies confirmed vapes and HTPs to be significantly less harmful than combusted tobacco. This is because unlike cigarettes, these innovative products employ heating, instead of burning, to deliver nicotine.
“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.
Countries such as the United Kingdom promote 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.
The US Food and Drugs Administration also confirmed that nicotine is not the primary cause of smoking related diseases but the smoke from combustion.
Results of various scientific research 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.
“In the Philippines, more than a million former smokers have made the switch. No less than the President’s son, Davao City 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 na for his health
(Even Mayor Isko, who was a former Marlboro smoker, has switched to IQOS, a heated tobacco product, for his health),” he said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who supported the vape bill, justified his vote by saying that he personally witnessed how HTPs helped his brother Vic Sotto quit smoking.
“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 clarified that 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.
The vape bill aims to regulate e-cigarettes and HTPs, while providing 16 million adult Filipino smokers with less harmful options. It is also designed to stop the sale of unregulated and illegal products that do not meet government standards and do not contribute excise taxes to the government.
Under the bill, the government will properly regulate the sale and use of these products and raise more taxes in support of the Universal Health Care program.
The bill will also make tobacco harm reduction as a part of the Philippines’ public health strategy. Countries which adopted progressive policies around vaping saw their smoking rates fall twice as fast as other countries, according to studies.
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 also requires these smoke-free products to be registered with and regulated by the Department of Trade and Industry, thereby preventing smuggling and illicit trade of substandard nicotine products.
About 2.7 million Filipino farmers and workers who depend on the tobacco industry will also benefit from the vape bill which will legitimize the industry of less harmful nicotine products.
Several medical experts who are directly involved in treating smokers have confirmed the efficacy of vapor products in helping smokers quit. Dr. Fernando Fernandez, Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Dental Federation and the past president of the Philippine Dental Association, said this is what makes the vape bill a big win for public health.
Data show that while more than 76 percent of Filipino smokers wanted to quit, only 4 percent were able to do so.
Most Filipino smokers also wanted more options aside from cigarettes. 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.
Jan V. Escosio – Inquirer.net – 2022-02-06.