MANILA — Proponents of the controversial vape bill that recently lapsed into law asked the public on Wednesday to give the measure a chance before thumbing it down.
"Let us wait for the full effect of this vape law… After siguro ng (perhaps after) one year, people will understand the beauty and the importance," Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.
Dulay made the appeal after critics said they would question the law before the Supreme Court.
The new law lowers the age of sale of vapes to 18 years old from 21, and transfers its regulation under the Department of Trade and Industry from the Food and Drug Administration.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives of the 18th Congress approved the vape regulation bill in January, but it was supposedly transmitted to Malacañang last June 24, just days before then President Rodrigo Duterte stepped down from office, reports said.
As a consequence of its delayed transmission to the Palace, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. inherited the bill. Malacañang said it lapsed into law on July 25.
Former House deputy speaker and now Valenzuela Mayor Wes Gatchalian, a sponsor of the measure, said Marcos' choice not to veto the bill was "already a sign."
"Dumaan naman po ito sa kanya, I presume. I do not have direct contact with the Malacañang, pero lahat ng ganito nire-report naman sa kanya," Gatchalian said.
(This passed through him, I presume. I do not have direct contact with Malacañang, but all bills are being reported to him.)
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 2-flavor limit on the products' flavors or juices, allows sponsorships beyond industry associations and trade events, and allows tobacco companies to conduct corporate social responsibility-related activities.
"...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," Sen. Pia Cayetano said.
But vape law proponents said it would give smokers a chance to improve their health.
"We are looking for sustainable ways of quitting the smoking habit. We are for quitting entirely, and also for tobacco harm reduction," said Lorenzo Mata, president of advocacy group Quit for Good.
"Right now the quit rate is a distant 4 percent. Smoking continues to be linked to deaths from cancer, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and other harmful diseases," he said.
Mata said the law was not designed for those who have yet to smoke.
"We never offer this (vape) to non-smokers," he said.
The law will also protect minors from accessing easily heated tobacco products (HTPs), said Dulay.
"Our organization promotes responsible selling and use of alternative products… We coordinate with law enforcement to stamp out fly-by-night operators," he said.
"We have our own code of conduct to ensure that the retailers and the industry are compliant with the law."
Dulay noted the law "provides for product standards and registration and restrictions."
Graphic health warnings will be included in the HTPs, and their sale will be restricted in schools, universities, and colleges.