Controversial bill lowering the age for vape access lapses into law: Palace

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 26 2022 11:51 AM | Updated as of Jul 26 2022 03:48 PM

A customer smokes at a vape store in Manila on November 20, 2019. Photo by DANTE DIOSINA JR / AFP
A customer smokes at a vape store in Manila on November 20, 2019. Photo by DANTE DIOSINA JR / AFP

MANILA (2nd UPDATE)— A measure seeking to lower the age for vape access has lapsed into law, as advocates push for vape use as alternative for cigarettes, Malacañang confirmed to ABS-CBN News on Tuesday. 

The measure transfers the regulation of vapes under the Department of Trade and Industry from the Food and Drug Administration. It also lowers the age of sale from 21 to 18.

Before the enactment of the new vape bill, existing regulations disallow flavored vapes and the sale of the product to anyone aged 21 and below.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health had urged the Marcos administration to veto the controversial measure.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The measure was supposedly transmitted to Malacañang last June 24, days before then President Rodrigo Duterte stepped down from office, reports said.

A bill will lapse into law if the Chief Executive fails to act on it 30 days after receipt from Congress, according to the Official Gazette. 

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said via text message that the bill lapsed into law on Monday, July 25.

The Palace has yet to release a copy of the official document as of this story's writing.

The vape regulation bill was approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress in January, but remained "sitting on the Speaker's table" until the 11th hour of the Duterte administration.

As a consequence of its delayed transmission to the OP, the bill was inherited by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr.

KEY PROVISIONS

Dr. Maricar Limpin, president of the Philippine College of Physicians, had feared that the measure would side with the industry sector and not health. 

Aside from lowering the age of access to e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, the bill also: 

  • removes two-flavor limit on the products' flavors or juices
  • allows sponsorships beyond industry associations and trade events 
  • allows tobacco companies to conduct corporate social responsibility-related activities 

Sen. Pia Cayetano, among the senators opposing the bill's passage, expressed her disappointment with the development but vowed that the fight would not stop. 

She added that her hopes were high given that President Marcos highlighted his belief on science-based evidence, noting the dangers of e-cigarettes and its widened access to younger people. 

"To say that I am disappointed in the 18th Congress that passed the bill, and with the President for not vetoing it, will not do justice to the millions of lives that will be put in harm's way because of the Vape Law," said Cayetano in a statement. 

"I thought this means that the Vape Bill would be vetoed, because the science clearly tells us just how harmful these products are, while medical experts have repeatedly said how the Vape Bill masquerades as a health measure, as it really pushes for de-regulation, not regulation, and harm introduction, not harm reduction," she added. 

Her brother Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano had said the law would make vaping accessible to people as young as senior high school students. 

He also slammed the provision transferring the regulatory powers to DTI from FDA, given that it is a health issue. 

The lawmaker noted that the law will "undoubtedly make it harder for the country’s estimated 17 million smokers to quit" and instead make them dependent to nicotine through e-cigarettes. 

“This practically turns the issue of nicotine abuse from a public health concern to a money-making endeavor for the government. Simply put, the DTI does not have the same expertise and experience to regulate these products as the FDA," he said in a statement in January when he was still a congressman.

Anti-vape advocates had said they would question its legality before the Supreme Court, Cayetano said. 

Outside this bill, there is a legal battle. It is one, it will not stop people from getting the addiction… and those who already have the addiction, how to help them to get out of that addiction,” he said last week. 

“We averted a moral crisis by banning internet gaming, specifically e-sabong. So let's not sign this bill that will lead to another health crisis,” he added.

— With reports from Jauhn Etienne Villaruel and Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

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