MANILA - A group of health advocates on Thursday expressed concern over Senator Ralph Recto's new bill on vaping and vape products, noting that it contradicts President Rodrigo Duterte's executive order on vaping.
HealthJustice PH, in a statement, said Recto's Senate Bill No. 1951, filed last December 14, contradicts the executive order signed by the President earlier this year.
"The bill contradicts the law and executive order signed by President Rodrigo Duterte which mandates that these products should only be accessible to 21 years old and above. Last year, President Duterte declared that these products are ‘toxic,’” said Ralph Degollacion of HealthJustice Philippines.
In February, Duterte signed an executive order which prohibits vaping or the use of e-cigarettes in public places in an expansion of his earlier nationwide smoking ban.
Executive Order No. 106 also prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and novel tobacco products to those below the age of 21, and requires the registration of such products and its components with the Food and Drug Administration.
Recto, in his bill, imposes a minimum age restriction of 18 years for these products "to ensure that only adults are allowed access to its use."
Dr. Rizalina Gonzalez of the Philippine Pediatric Society also lamented that the gains of the executive order will be diminished if the bill is passed.
“By lowering the legal age of access to vapes and heated tobacco products from 21 to 18, Senator Recto’s bill, if passed, will lure our youth to another deadly nicotine addiction,” she said.
The group also raised alarm over Recto's proposal to allow vaping in public places, except in areas like schools, hospitals, government offices, and "facilities intended particularly for minors."
“The Recto Vape Bill allows vaping in places which are declared 100% vape-free and smoke-free by the President," Degollacion said.
He also said allowing vaping in public places will "normalize this addiction in the eyes of the youth which is an upfront to the very intention of the President.”
Gonzalez appealed to the Senate not to pass the bill, especially now that the country is facing the onslaught of COVID-19.
"Our lawmakers should be encouraging the strict enforcement of the laws that protect people, especially young kids, from these products and not steaming up laws that make products like vapes, which have been proven to damage the lungs, more accessible to the youth," she said.
Last year, the Philippines confirmed its first reported case of an illness related to vaping or the use of e-cigarettes, one involving a teenage girl.
The Department of Health (DOH) said it received the report on a recorded case of electronic cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) from Central Visayas.
It said the patient is a 16-year-old girl who has been using e-cigarettes for 6 months. The health department said she was into "dual use," "concurrently" smoking regular cigarettes.
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