Wednesday, 12 January 2022

The Philippines take an enlightened approach to vaping, prohibitionists in the mud

The Philippines have had enough of Mike Bloomberg sticking his nose and money into their business. The wrinkly prohibitionist was caught last year funding numerous 'public health' groups in the country and giving pay outs to the Philippines FDA - the agency that regulates e-cigarettes.

The legal status of e-cigarettes has been all over the place in the Philippines in recent years. As far I can tell, they were effectively banned by the nation's autocratic president in February 2020, but they have now been deregulated in a conscious bid to encourage smokers to switch to them. 

It's all a big turnaround for a country that has been given awards from Mike Bloomberg and the equally prohibitionist WHO in the past. The volte face may have been partly a reaction to having a foreign billionaire using his money to influence policy, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.  

In true 'scream test' fashion, it has annoyed all the right people, not least the fanatics at the Tobacco Control blog...

New laws often build upon and strengthen existing laws, but in the midst of a pandemic when health-protective measures should be prioritised, retrogressive bills seeking to loosen existing restrictions on heated tobacco products (HTPs) and electronic nicotine/non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS) have advanced in Philippine Congress. 

Cry more.

Completely disregarding the existing laws that already set a regulatory regime for these products and the repeated and pointed opposition of medical organizations, these bills seek to make HTPs and ENDS/ENNDS more widely available by lowering the minimum age of access from 21 years to 18 years, allowing sales to non-smokers, allowing online marketing and sales, allowing multiple flavours that are attractive to teens, replacing the FDA with the industry-friendly Department of Trade and Industry as the regulatory agency for these harmful products, and limiting the placement of GHW [graphic health warning] to a single message on nicotine as an addictive substance.


Under the guise of balanced regulation, HB 9007 and SB 2239 proponents claim that regulation of HTPs and ENDS/ENNDS should not be stricter than that for reportedly much more harmful cigarettes, as stipulated in RA 9211. 

It obviously shouldn't. And note the sly use of the word 'reportedly'.
For a more intelligent take, read this report from the Manila Bulletin...

The Philippines is poised to join the ranks of progressive countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand which are seeing sharp declines in the number of smokers with the passage of the so-called vape bill in the Senate and the House of Representatives, two leading international experts on tobacco harm reduction said.

It is also worth watching the Philippines' video statement at last year's FCTC COP9, the WHO's biannual anti-nicotine conference. The tone is very polite, but the minister makes it clear that they're not going to take any more of the WHO's prohibitionist medicine.

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