MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte justified Wednesday his verbal order to the police to arrest anyone caught vaping or using e-cigarettes in public, saying it was meant to protect the health of Filipinos.
Duterte said he would soon issue an executive order on the matter but noted that police officers can already arrest those vaping in public on the basis of a law that prohibits the distribution of toxic materials in public.
He, however, did not name the specific law.
“I do not want anyone in the Philippines vaping. The executive order will come,” he said in a speech during the 80th anniversary of the Department of National Defense.
The President made the statement as the Philippine National Police began its crackdown on e-cigarette users on Wednesday.
Duterte said he banned vaping to protect the health of Filipinos.
“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,” he said.
He also assured police officers of his support in arresting e-cigarette users and vendors.
“And they said, what’s the law? Never mind the law. The law will come. Tell them who --- I ordered it,” he said.
Duterte ordered the ban on e-cigarettes on Tuesday, days after the Philippines confirmed its first case of a vape-related lung injury.
There are about 1 million users of e-cigarettes in the Philippines, according to the Department of Health.
Dr. Lorenzo Mata, president of the group “Quit For Good," on Wednesday 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."