House passes bill on e-cigarettes, vapes amid concerns over provisions

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 25 2021 06:30 PM

House passes bill on e-cigarettes, vapes amid concerns over provisions 1
A customer smokes at a vape store in Manila on November 20, 2019. Dante Diosina Jr., AFP/File

MANILA - The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on third and final reading House Bill 9007 or the proposed Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Act covering electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco systems.

According to the congressional fact sheet based on a committee report, the bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, importation, sale, distribution, use, advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs). 

It also aims to set up harm reduction measures by ensuring that non-combustible alternatives to cigarettes are properly regulated. 

Among its key provisions are: 

  • minimum allowable age for the purchase, sale, and use of ENNDS or HTPs shall be 18 years old
  • obligates vendors to check age of buyers by requiring the presentation of a valid government-issued ID
  • allows the sale or distribution of ENNDS or HTPs through the internet subject to safeguards that only those aged 18 and above may buy
  • prohibits the sale or distribution their sale within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, playground, or other facility frequented by minors
  • requires all manufacturers, importers and distributors to sell them and their related products to comply with specific packaging requirements
  • mandates that all e-liquid receptacles shall be child-resistant, tamper-resistant and shall be protected against breakage and leakage
  • permits advertisements in-retailer establishments and restricts ENNDS or HTPs promotions which are subject to conditions 
  • bans their use in all enclosed public places except in designated vaping areas
  • strictly prohibits the retail or use of nicotine shots and/or concentrates

If HB 9007 becomes law, violators may be slapped with P500,000 to P1 million fines and can be imprisoned for 5 years or less. Business permits and licenses may also be revoked or canceled. 

Voting 192-34-4, some spoke against the measure as critics say that if it becomes a law, it will make electronic cigarettes and other related products more accessible to the youth.

"The youth party is gravely concerned about certain provisions of HB 9007 or the 'Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act.' Kabataan Partylist strongly opposes the lowering of the minimum legal age of access from 21 to 18 years old. This youth representation proposes that the age of access restriction be raised to 25 years instead, in light of new studies and evidence which suggest that young persons below the age of 25 are highly likely to retain nicotine addiction," Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago said.

"This could only perpetuate the nicotine addiction in the country."

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro also noted the bill contradicts various advisories and health warnings by the Department of Health and Food and Drug Administration on e-cigarettes and vaping products.

"Given the advice and inputs from the medical community, especially the World Health Organization, the DOH itself, various medical societies, to name a few, this Congress should be considering a prohibition on the use, sale, distribution, trade, importation, and marketing of ENNDS and HTPs until they are otherwise declared as not harmful," she said.

"We should at least increase the legal age for sale and use. But instead, we blow smoke on sound medical advice."

Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun noted Congress earlier passed and enacted Republic Act 11467, which imposes higher excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes. He said that under this law, adequate safeguards were provided for the protection of children and that the FDA became the regulatory agency for e-cigarettes, among other provisions.

"Regrettably, however, all of these have been removed and are no longer present in the measure pending before us for third and final reading. House Bill No. 9007 is a complete departure from the regulatory framework, protection of children and young people and certain health safeguards already in place in RA 11467 that we ourselves passed only very recently," Fortun said.

"Furthermore, while our present laws already prohibit advertisements for cigarettes on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, including the internet, HB 9007 allows online promotions and trading which has now an even far wider reach and influence than TV, radio and print," he added.

Quezon 4th District Rep. Angelina Helen Tan, House Committee on Health chair, said the bill "pretends to be a health measure for all but only gives primordial consideration to trade and commercial interests of the few." 

"The measure is a complete contravention of evidence-informed health legislation that seeks to regulate the manufacture, importation, sale, distribution, use, advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems and heated tobacco products," she said.

Deputy Speaker, Manila 6th District Rep. Bienvenido Abante claimed: “Walang pinagkaiba ang vaping or nicotine sa drug addiction.”

A clean copy of the amended bill is yet to be furnished to the media. 

—Report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

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