"Any concerns about youth vaping are well covered in last year's landmark vape law. The Philippines has more than enough regulations and safeguards now in place, without a Senator trying to relitigate everything," says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates).
Her comments follow the Senate recently adopting a resolution denouncing the sale and marketing of e-cigarettes and other vape products towards the youth. It saw Senator Pia Cayetano deliver a speech where she claimed vape flavours and designs draw young people to the products.
Last year, smokefree advocates around the world celebrated the Philippines passing the Republic Act 1190, otherwise known as the 'Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act'.
Regulation of the importation, manufacture, sale, packaging, distribution, use and communication of vaping products such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) became law on 25 July 2022.
At the time advocates said the law strongly protects minors, helps to eradicate blackmarkets, ensures safety standards, and critically delivers adult accessibility to viable alternatives for smokers desperate to quit.
"Without doubt, the legislation and regulations are aimed at protecting youth, despite it not being expressly stated in the statute. For example, there are provisions that expressly provide prohibition on selling to minors.
She says there is also a provision where it is expressly stated that flavour descriptors that unduly appeal to minors are prohibited. This includes candy, fruits, desserts, and cartoon graphics.
Late last year, following the passing of the vape law, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).
"It's the DTI's mandate and responsibility to implement the new vaping laws. The Philippines doesn't need any more Senate speeches and resolutions. It just needs the regulator and retailers to work together to ensure young people are protected as was clearly intended," says Nancy Loucas.
Clarisse Virgino, Philippine representative to the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA), agrees that any issues pertaining to the vape law now lie with the DTI.
"This is not a Senate issue but an issue around implementation. We must let the DTI do its job and positively work with the industry and retailers to make sure they're educated and compliant. Many parties, including consumer advocates, worked on the vape law in good faith. Let's continue that good faith," says Ms Virgino.
She says despite political argument at the edges the Philippines now leads the charge in Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) among its Asian neighbours.
"Our country has endured a terrible smoking epidemic for decades, with nearly 90,000 Filipinos dying annually from smoking-related diseases. We've now adopted a successful THR strategy which will see smoking rates fall. Ours is landmark and leading legislation. It just needs time to bed in.
"The 2022 vape law will deliver real results and help eradicate smoking. Our focus now must be to ensure 16 million Filipino smokers have a viable path to switch to safer nicotine products," says Clarisse Virgino.
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The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Advocates is a regional alliance of consumer tobacco harm reduction advocacy organizations. Its mission is to educate, advocate and
represent the right of adult alternative nicotine consumers to access and use of products that reduce harm from tobacco use.