Doctors blast senators for passing vape bill on 2nd reading

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2021 07:34 PM | Updated as of Dec 18 2021 03:27 PM

MANILA—Doctors have criticized the passage of Senate Bill 2239 or the Vaporized Nicotine Products bill on second reading, calling it a “betrayal of the Filipino people”.

Physicians and health advocates have been conducting an online protest to oppose the bill, which aims to reduce the allowable age limit for electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs) from 21 years old to 18 years old. It also transfers regulatory powers over the products from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Trade and Industry. 

Health professionals consider these provisions regressive and dangerous. 

The DTI does not have the capacity to regulate the chemicals contained in vape products, said pulmonologist and Philippine College of Physicians president Dr. Maricar Limpin.

"It is really de-regulation rather than regulation. We know for a fact these products can cause harm to the health and therefore the appropriate agency to regulate these products is the FDA, not DTI," Limpin said. 

The bills also allowed the sale of various vape juice flavors, which goes against the existing RA 11467 which limits flavors to tobacco and plain menthol. 

Limpin said that studies show more flavors help entice more users to engage in smoking, and also increases the frequency of usage. 

“Habang kami po ay abala sa pakikipaglaban sa pandemya, upang ipagtanggol ang buhay ng mga Pilipino, habang tinataya namin ang aming mga buhay, pati na rin ang buhay ng aming pamilya upang isalba ang buhay ng mga Pilipino, ang Senado po naman ay tila baga palihim na pinabilis ang pagpapasa ng vape bill na ito,” said pulmonologist and Philippine College of Physicians president Dr. Maricar Limpin.

(While we are busy battling the pandemic to defend Filipino lives and risking our own lives and those of our families, the Senate seems to be secretly hurrying the passage of this vape bill.)

Limpin claimed that despite their best efforts to convince senators on the dangers of vape use, they were ignored. 

“Kami pong mga doktor ay nag-present ng mga ebidensya para hindi maisulong ang pangit at peligrong vape bill na ito,” she said. “Ang nakakalungkot lang po dito ay tila bang tinapon lahat ang mga ebidensyang ipinakita namin ang tinanggap lamang ang sinabi ng industriya.”

(We doctors presented evidence to prevent the passage of this dangerous and ugly vape bill. What saddens us is that it's as if all the evidence we presented had been thrown away, and the senators only accepted whatever the industry told them.) 

“Sa mga mahal naming senador, mga dati naming kakampi laban sa sigarilyo, bakit ninyo naman hahayaan ang ating kabataan na gumamit nito? Di namin naintindihan yan eh. Ano na ang nangyari sa inyong mga puso? Napunta na ba sa bulsa?” Internal Medicine Specialist and Co- Convenor of the Health Care Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 Dr. Antonio Dans said.

(To our beloved senators, who were once our allies against cigarettes, why will you let children use vapes? We do not understand. What has happened to your hearts? Have they all gone to your pockets?) 

According to doctors, despite claims that that vaping is a healthier version to tobacco smoking, vape juices still contain nicotine -- a highly addictive substance which can affect the brain development of those using it under the age of 25, and can cause lung injury.

Limpin emphasized that despite being marketed as a way to help ease quitting smoking, studies show that more than 50% of those who use e-cigarettes continue to smoke. 

They added there are also no conclusive studies proving that substances in vape juices are safe for inhalation.

The doctors criticized the bill's proponents: Senators Ralph Recto, Miguel Zubiri, and Vicente "Tito" Sotto III.

But the doctors praised Senator Pia Cayetano, who they called the “lone defender” of junking the bill.

The Senate bill is expected to undergo third and final reading on Thursday. With the passage of its counterpart bill in the lower House, the measure's opponents fear it may become a law sooner than expected. 

The doctors urged President Rodrigo Duterte to "veto" the vape bill "in its entirety."