Medical experts ask Duterte to veto 'pro-industry' vape bill

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2022 05:45 PM

Dr. Tony Dans says only FDA has the competence to regulate vaping products. Screengrab by ABS-CBN News
Dr. Tony Dans says only FDA has the competence to regulate vaping products. Screengrab by ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Doctors from various fields on Monday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to veto a controversial bill that they claim would ultimately "deregulate" the sale and consumption of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products or vapes. 

In a press conference organized by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), at least 5 doctors representing their medical societies voiced their opposition to the proposed Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Regulation Act, recently approved by the bicameral conference committee. 

 

"Ang vape bill na ito ay hindi makatarungan… Ito ay anti-youth, anti-children, anti-health... Dinagdagan pa nila ang flavors ng vape, dati 2 ngayon 11 na. Pinapababa din nito ang edad ng puwedeng gumamit from 21 to 18," Philippine Medical Association (PMA) president Dr. Benny Atienza said. 

Under the bill, individuals aged 18 and above would be allowed to purchase vaping products as opposed to the current age limit of 21.

Pediatrician Dr. Corry Avanceña of the Philippine Pediatric Society and Philippine Academy of Pediatric Pulmonologists emphasized the danger of allowing younger people to access vaping products, the "health benefits" of which remain debatable.

"Ang nicotine, 'yan ang addicting substance ng sigarilyo at ng vape. So if you start smoking or vaping [at a younger age], 'yung part ng brain na affected ay 'yung for higher learning, for memory, mood, so mas malaking pinsala," she said. 

Another controversial provision of the bill is the authority granted to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as the lead agency to regulate the vaping devices and products. 

According former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director general Dr. Eric Domingo, regulation of vape products should have been assigned to a health agency. 

"Ito ay sinusunog at pinapasok sa baga ng tao... FDA lamang ang may kakayahan to determine kung wala itong mga lason, yung concentration nya ay di makakamatay sa mga gumagamit," Domingo said.

Longtime health advocate Dr. Tony Dans also questioned DTI's competence to regulate vaping products. 

"Masalimuot pong topic yang vape, araw-araw may lumalabas na ebidensya tungkol dyan. Part ng regulatory skill ng FDA ay keeping track of the literature… Walang expertise na gawin yan ang DTI sa ngayon," he said.

PCP president Dra. Maricar Limpin also criticized some medical doctors supportive of the bill, alleging that they were influenced by the tobacco and vaping industries.

"Maraming fallacies tungkol sa vape bill ang pinapakalat, na ginagamit pa nga po ang [ibang] doktor... Mukhang naging biktima sila ng industriya," said Limpin.

Limpin also lamented how medical experts were allegedly ignored by the legislators who crafted the bill, which she said ended up being "pro-industry."

"Masama ang loob namin sa legislators. Ang pinakinggan nila yung industriya lamang. Bakit itong mga industriya ang lalakas sa legislators na ito?" she said.

The Department of Health described the bill as "retrogressive and contains several provisions that contradict public health goals and international standards."

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