Senator Christopher Go on Sunday said he would recommend to President Rodrigo Duterte that he issue an executive order to regulate e-cigarettes and vape before they become a large-scale health hazard.
Go noted that at present, there is no law to regulate the manufacturing, distribution, and sale of e-cigarettes and an attempt by the Department of Health to impose some rules have been stymied by a preliminary injunction from a Pasig court.
As chairman of the Senate committee on health, Go said smoking, in all forms, is a public health problem and it hurts almost everyone nearby— smokers and non-smokers alike.
Meanwhile, the Sin Tax Coalition co-convener Dr. Anthony Leachon said he hopes the government steps up and protects the public from the harmful effects of the use of e-cigarettes and vape after the Department of Health reported the first case of electronic cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) in the Central Visayas region.
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The Coalition urged senators to immediately pass the proposal to raise taxes on electronic cigarettes and vapor products.
In recent months, Leachon said a spike in the number of cases of EVALI has been seen in the United States, with over 2,000 cases reported, and 39 people having lost their lives.
Leachon reiterated the coalition’s support for Senate Bill 1074 sponsored by Senate Ways and Means committee chairperson Pia Cayetano, which seeks to significantly increase taxes on heated tobacco products (HTPs) and vape. The measure was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday.
“Raising taxes has proven to be an effective tool in curbing the consumption of sin products, and Senator Cayetano’s bill has already been certified as a priority measure by the office of the President,” said Leachon.
“Once again, we urge our legislators to act on the call of the President, and approve Senate Bill 1074 before the year ends,” he added.
Leachon said the tax increase will serve as a means to prevent vulnerable sectors such as the youth from starting to use e-cigarettes or vape or encouraging them to quit altogether.
According to the 2018 National Nutrition Survey, one out of five vape users in the country is aged 10 to 19.
Aside from curbing consumption, health advocates along with the DOH and the Office Of The President have noted that another reason to quickly pass the tax increase on e-cigarettes and vape is to help bridge the funding shortfall for the Universal Health Care (UHC) Law signed earlier this year.
Health Sec. Francisco Duque said they are still conducting further tests to fully validate if the first reported case of EVALI in the country is really due to the use of electronic cigarettes.
“As of now, it is still a probable cause. It is not absolute],” said Duque, adding that he had already asked the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to coordinate with the hospital where the patient was treated.
On Friday, the Health department recorded the first probable case of EVALI involving a 16-year-old girl who started using flavored electronic cigarettes for at least three to four months.
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The patient, non-asthmatic and with no report of illicit drug use, was admitted to an undisclosed hospital last month. Hours before she was admitted, she had difficulty breathing.
She was then eventually transferred to the regular ward and was discharged on the sixth day of her hospitalization with a “diagnosis of e-cigarette or vape-associated lung injury.” The patient already stopped using electronic and regular cigarettes after being discharged from the hospital.
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