By GYNNA P. GAGELONIA, Correspondent
Short URL: https://wp.me/paaccn-cme
Sixty medical associations and health advocacy groups have urged the Senate and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to junk Senate Bill No. 2239, or commonly known as the Vape Bill
“It is anti-health and regressive. It is anti-youth and pro-industry. Junk the Vape Bill (SB 2239 and House Bill 9007). It is untimely amid the Cocid-19 crisis.”
“If the Vape Bill is passed, we appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte to please veto it,” they emphasized.
The medical community (composed of 60 medical associations, tobacco control advocacy groups, and other health reform organizations) urged the Senate to scrap the Vape Bill during the virtual Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) Heath Forum on August 31, 2021 via Zoom and Facebook live.
The 2,007-member Philippine Heart Association (PHA) under the presidency of Dr. Gilbert Vilela, lends its voice and support to the Movement’s firm stand against the Vape Bill. PHA is a member of the Philippine Medical Association (PCP) and PCP.
Senate Bill No. 2239 is an act “Regulating the Importation, Manufacture, Sale, Packaging, Distribution, Use, And Communication of Vapor Products and Heated Tobacco Products” while House Bill No. 9007 is an act “Regulating the Manufacture, Use, Sale, Packaging, Distribution, Advertisement and Promotion of Electronic Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems, Heated Tobacco Products, And Novel Tobacco Products”.
The group lamented that “the Vape Bill is anti-youth and will open the gate to illicit drug use (while) there are more pressing bills that need higher prioritization in this ongoing pandemic; and favors the tobacco/e-cigarette industry rather than public health, specifically the younger population, who is the most vulnerable to these harmful products.”
PCP President Dr. Limpin said, “we oppose the lowering of age limit from 21 to 18 years; easing restrictions on flavors; deregulation from the Food Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI); allowing vaping in schools, hospitals, public places; absence of ban on sale to non-smokers.”
Just like cigarette smoking, vaping is not just bad for the lungs. It also damages the heart and the brain.
At the said presser, the PHA was represented by Drs. Orlando Bugarin and Richard Henry Tiongco II, immediate past PHA president and PHA director/advocacy chair, respectively.
Heart Doctors: Vaping is as bad as smoking
Bugarin said “switching from cigarette to vaping or e-cigarette does not eliminate or lessen health risks. There is no gray zone here. Your clear option should be to quit smoking and/or vaping cold turkey. There is a strong link between smoking/vaping and diseases of the heart and the blood vessels.
He added that “e-cigarette users (compared to non-smokers) are prone to cardiovascular and other health issues. You are 34% more likely to have a heart attack; 25% more likely to have coronary artery disease; 30% more likely to have stroke; and 55% more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.”
Recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recorded 2,807 hospitalized cases or deaths due to tethrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive substance that produces the “high” associated with smoking marijuana and can also lead to central nervous system depression) and vitamin E acetate (the substance has been acknowledged as a potential toxin that remains in the lungs for a long period of time) were strongly linked to E-cigarette or Vaping Associated Lung Injury (EVALI), were also cited by Bugarin.
“The top three reasons for using e-cigarettes among the youth are: a friend or a family member uses e-cigarette, availability of flavors such as mint, candy, fruit or chocolate; and the belief that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco use,” said Dr. Maria Corazon Avanceña, an officer of the Philippine Academy of Pediatric Pulmonologist (PAPP).
Dr. Kristine Latorre, immediate past president of the Philippine Neurology Association (PNA), said that “the young’s inability to make rightful judgment, desire to conform with their peers plus the slow brain progression in teens may lead them to wrong choices. The brain is still developing at 18 and won’t be fully developed till age 25.”
Family is key to a smoke-free home
From the sidelines of the PCP Health Forum, Vilela, in an interview with SDN — Science and Digital News “asked the youth if they are “concerned about their future? Remember that life is always a choice. It is how you make it. Bad habits and vices are like flat tires. You won’t get anywhere with them.” Vilela is also the director of Education, Training and Research of the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) and is the secretary of the Philippine Society of Hypertension (PSH).
Time and again, the PHA has been harping on the benefits of “0 smoking”
It has remained steadfast in calling on every Filipino family to make their home a strong foundation for healthy lifestyle practices. It is best to embed the value of “0 smoking” (which should also include 0 vaping) in kids early on. But parents can only do so much. Young adults and adults are expected to have the wisdom and resolve to avoid or nix smoking/vaping.
Healthy and unhealthy practices can be a family thing. There’s also peer pressure. For the young and innocent who love to try something cool to chill, these vapes that come in a medley of flavors are irresistible.
According to the PHA, the nicotine in cigarettes and e-cigarette which is addicting increases a smoker’s risk of cholesterol build-up in the arteries that leads to atherosclerosis. Just like cigarettes, vape and e-cigarette smoking contain toxic chemicals that elevate your blood pressure and spike your adrenaline, causing an abnormally fast heart rate and constriction of the arteries that can result in heart attack. The healthiest approach is to never try smoking or vaping.” (✓)
Meanwhile, the provisions in the bills that are in question are as follows:
- Reversal of minimum age of access and use from 21 to 18 years of age
Existing RA 11467 already states that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shall determine and regulate the use and manufacture of vapor and heated tobacco products, including banning of sale below twenty-one years old.
- Ease in restriction and limitation of available flavors
While the medical community widely supports the restriction or limitation of available flavors in order to reduce attractiveness in non-targeted users, the current bill seems to allow otherwise. These flavors attract the youth and make these products more palatable.
- Absence of the ban on sale & distribution to non-smokers
RA 11467 prohibits manufacturers, distributors, and sellers from selling and distributing these products to non-smokers. However, the current bill does not include this provision, setting aside the existing law, making it clearly a pro-industry bill.
- Ease in health warnings restriction
The House bill requires only a single text warning, effectively reversing the graphic health warnings (GHW) required under RA 11346. While the Senate bill has a provision to bear graphic health warnings, it requires the single text warning to occupy the GHW space, weakening its effectiveness. All of these defeat the purpose of periodically determining specific messages based on evolving medical and scientific studies and likewise violate RA 11346.
- Allows vaping in outdoor spaces within the premises of schools, hospitals, etc.
In the bill, the use of vapor and heated tobacco products is banned only in indoor/enclosed areas of schools, hospitals, facilities intended particularly for minors, and government facilities, hence giving multiple opportunities for sensitive sectors to be exposed to harm and advertising these devices by allowing full view of the products to youths, those seeking medical care, and the general public.
- Demotion of FDA as lead agency
Unlike in Sec. 144 of RA 11467 and Section 2 of EO 106 where FDA is rightfully the lead regulator of all products affecting health, the current bill transfers the regulatory mandate to the Department of Trade and Industry. (✓)