MANILA (UPDATE) —President Rodrigo Duterte warned the judiciary on Wednesday against interfering with his order to arrest people vaping or using e-cigarettes in public, as well as those engaged in their importation.
Should a court decide to block Duterte’s directive, the President warned that he would not heed it.
“Judges, I warn you, do not issue restraining orders to the Customs, to the Coast Guard,” he said in a speech during the 80th anniversary celebration of the Department of National Defense in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
“I will not obey your order because of the peculiar situation this country finds.”
While Duterte has yet to issue a written order to back his ban on vaping, the Philippine National Police on Wednesday already began its crackdown on users and vendors of e-cigarettes.
“I do not want anyone in the Philippines vaping. The executive order will come,” he said.
PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa said Wednesday all those who do not follow the President’s pronouncement will be arrested while confiscated items will be disposed of. He also declared police offices as "no-vape zones."
Duterte on Tuesday ordered the ban on e-cigarettes as he likened vaping to smoking tobacco cigarettes, which he earlier prohibited nationwide.
The President also clarified that he only wanted to block the importation of e-cigarettes.
“Where will I find the police who… That is why, I said hold the importations, not seize but just hold them. Do not allow it to [come in],” he said.
Vaping has irked the chief executive, who claimed that e-cigarettes have toxic chemicals.
“The e-cigarette is making it worse. There are chemicals that are added to nicotine which we do not know. And I am not about ready to allow the young people of the Philippines to get sick and to die,” Duterte said.
There are about 1 million e-cigarette users in the Philippines according to the Department of Health.
A group advocating for e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco on Wednesday appealed to Duterte to reconsider his vaping ban.
Dr. Lorenzo Mata, president of the group “Quit For Good," said vapes are "95 percent less harmful" than cigarettes, citing studies from the United Kingdom.
"We would respectfully appeal to the President to reconsider his decision because it can have dire consequences in the health and economy of the nation," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"Without a viable alternative to smoking, now considered as 95 percent less harmful than tobacco cigarette, then we are depriving the 17 million Filipino smokers of this opportunity."