Health and education authorities have jointly called on President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the vape bill, described by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday as a “Trojan” horse in the policy to protect health.
Under the measure, passed by both houses of Congress last Jan. 26, individuals aged 18 and above would be allowed to purchase vaping products. The current age limit is at 21.
“As a government institution championing young Filipinos’ well-being, we are taking a stand against the so-called ‘anti-health’ vape bill, which will weaken existing law and the executive order against… e-cigarettes or vapes,” the Department of Education said in a statement.
Duque said there was growing evidence that vapes and e-cigarettes were “harmful and not risk-free,” adding that they increased the risk of heart and respiratory diseases, and explosion injuries.
“This bill is a Trojan horse to this administration’s abound policy to protect the health of the nation, especially our youth,” Duque said in a webinar.
“It is contrary to public health goals, masquerading as a solution, to a decades-long problem of tobacco use,” he added.
Duque said the measure is a retrogressive bill that undermines the country’s progress in tobacco prevention and control.
“The bill will achieve the opposite of its intended purpose of strengthening tobacco industry regulation as it relaxes the restrictions on the minimum age of access, flavorings, regulation, distribution, advertising, promotion, sale, and use of these products,” he said.
During the webinar, Dr. Riza Gonzales also stressed that chronic diseases take a long time to develop.
“Second, before they knew about the dangers of smoking , hazards, and everything, it took them decades and decades before… Vape is just 18 years old. It takes a lot of time for cancer and other chronic diseases to develop,” she said.
DepEd said the measure “is of great concern for us” and cited a Philippine Pediatric Society study which found that 6.7 percent of DepEd learners from Grades 7 to 9 “have tried and are using e-cigarettes.”
The DepEd also cited enrollment data from School Year 2020-2021, which showed “at least 870,000 learners in the basic education sector were 18 years old… while close to 1.1 million learners in senior high school were 18 to 20 years old.”
“This is the number of learners who will legally be allowed to be sold the harmful products once the bill becomes law,” it said.
The proposed measure also transfers regulatory powers over vaping products from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Trade and Industry, which the DepEd opposed.