Pia raises alarm on the unregulated selling of vape flavors and packaging designs that appeal to the youth market
Privilege speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Principal sponsor, RA No. 11467, Sin Tax Law of 2020
Principal co-sponsor, RA 10351, Sin Tax Law of 2012
Mr President, I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege. My speech is about vape flavors and designs, which are attracting our youth, which are very attractive to our youth.
Just a quick background, your honor, on December 12, barely a month ago, last year, we marked the 10th year anniversary of the passage of the Sin Tax Law, which is Republic Act 10351. I was there to celebrate this landmark bill, along with members… well former officers, former secretaries of the Department of Health, health advocates, and even youth leaders who have worked for the passage of the Sin Tax Law.
If you would recall, Mr President, this Senate has taken a strong position on taxing products that are harmful for health, particularly products that are targeted at the youth. And we used sin tax, we used the increased prices of sin products to prevent access. So maraming kwento, your honor, and we have the data now to show that with the sin tax that we have imposed over the 10 years, nabawasan ang naninigarilyo. So that is good news for us, Mr. President. I wanted to report that because this is part of our oversight function. We have been effective in lowering the number of people who smoke cigarettes.
But I go now, Mr President, to a new product, a novel product, which is the vapes and the e-cigarettes, and in that photo that was just being flashed, it shows me holding a sample of a vape product. Our colleagues are familiar with the position I’ve taken from the very start that the e-cigs regulation law that we passed repealed the very important provisions in the Sin Tax Law, which would have ensured or further prevented the youth from being exposed to the vice of vaping. Under the Sin Tax Law, the provisions that I am referring to are the jurisdiction of the FDA, number two, the age of 21 na binabaan sa 18 under the e-cigarettes regulation law, and third are the flavors.
So this speech, your honor, is about the flavors.
We had lengthy discussions, debates, and I think many, if not all of the senators, will agree that, even if you are a non-smoker, obviously, we are human beings. Kapag maganda sa mata, we are attracted. Kung maganda sa pandinig natin, we are attracted. And when it is something that is flavorful, we are attracted.
So in the Sin Tax Law, the provision of law was that only tobacco and plain menthol are allowed. Under the e-cigarette regulation law, this was amended. Tinanggal itong very clear provision na ito and the provision that was passed is this, I will read it into the record [reads provision]:
“The sale of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and novel tobacco products that are packaged, labeled, presented, or marketed with flavor descriptors that are proven to unduly appeal particularly to minors shall be prohibited. A flavor descriptor is presumed to unduly appeal to minors if it includes a reference to a fruit, candy brand, dessert, or cartoon character.” [Section 12 (j), RA 11900, the Vape Law]
So I will repeat, kung ako ho sana ang nasunod, we should have retained the Sin Tax provision that simply said no flavors are allowed, except yung regular flavor na tobacco and menthol.
So ngayon in this Section 12, it says that we are regulating it. Bawal ang flavors that are appealing to the youth. And they presumed that flavors are unduly appealing to the youth if there’s a reference to fruit, candy brand, dessert, or cartoon character.
I direct the attention of the body to my next slide. These are the flavors now. Hindi ba direct violation yan? Ano yan, melon? Hindi ba prutas yun? Ano pa ba yun, Mr President, kung hindi prutas? What are these others? It’s a freaking skateboard. Sino ba nagse-skateboard na may edad? There are a few actually. But predominantly, skateboarders are young people.
The colors are bright. Orange, purple, green. May picture ng melon, blueberry. And may I ask the Majority Floor Leader to help me out? I don’t know, lemon yung nasa dilaw? Tama ba? Mango? But it’s still a fruit. Your honor, this is very clear. I read the provision of law. A flavor descriptor is presumed to unduly appeal to minors if it includes a reference to a fruit. Hindi ho ba reference to a fruit ito? Toha, toha [brand name] ba yan? Okay.
So, Mr President, under the e-cig law which I did not vote for pero I tried to strengthen it na rin kasi I knew ito na yun, my dear colleagues, dito tayo dadating. So against my objection, it is the DTI that has jurisdiction. So I will also inform our Secretary, but I assume that my speech will be delivered to the proper entities, because ito na. It’s a direct violation. What are we doing about it?
Next slide. Look at this, dear colleagues. Freaking Hello Kitty. Alam pa ni Majority Floor Leader. My Melody… Wow alam na alam. Di ba? So, Mr President, it is so, so so… Pokemon.
So this is what we’re confronted with. We were talking about it in last week’s hearing, our dear colleague, Sen. JV [Ejercito] had a hearing on PhilHealth where we were discussing what rates do we have to impose to ensure that PhilHealth can deliver financial support to our health institutions. On the one hand, nagpapakahirap tayo supporting our health workers, and on the other hand, okay lang sa atin na may ganito. Sinabi ko na po. Ito talaga mangyayari sa atin: M&M’s, Skittles, those are the packaging materials of the products that are out there, your honor.
[SP Zubiri interjects, says the Senate will adopt a resolution imploring DTI to enforce the law.]
Thank you, Mr. President. We appreciate the very proactive response from the Senate. Anyway, your honor, I don’t know if I have more photos. But I’d like to put this on record now. Currently, we have an estimated 2.7 million Filipinos who are using e-cigarettes or vaping devices. A few months ago, I got wind of the fact that there is now such a thing as disposable vapes, which will make it also very cheap to the youth and to Filipinos. There is also more and more research coming out showing the harmful effects of e-cigarettes and vapes. And there is even one report that I read that very distinctly said that it even appears to be more harmful, more damaging to the lungs than cigarette smoking.
So that’s all I’ve been trying to say from the very start. This is a new product, hinay-hinay lang sa pag-eendorse. Yun lang naman ang ayaw ko mangyari. We treat this product as the savior when there is no evidence yet that it is safer for the youth and even for senior citizens. Again, I cannot control the behavior of adults, but it is still our job when we legislate that we don’t allow these products to be marketed indiscriminately to make it appear as if it is safer. And now, we can see evidence that they are really targeting the youth.
Why do they target the youth? Because that is their future market. The minute you hook a young person, kliyente mo na yan for the next 20, 30, or 40 years. That’s why they are targeting it this way, Mr President.
So, in 2020 also, we have already recorded 2,807 cases of e-cigarette or vaping use associated lung injury, otherwise known as EVALI. But this is not in the Philippines per se, this is in I’m not sure if this is US or worldwide because this is Johns Hopkins.
But the point is, documented na rin. There is already a name to this disease. E-cigarettes or vaping use associated lung injury, otherwise known as EVALI. So that is now an ailment that is now being monitored carefully.
So your honors, I conclude. I thank my colleagues, I thank the Senate President for the immediate response. Hindi pa tapos ang speech ko, may action na maraming salamat po, Mr President.
As Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking, it is our responsibility to track our progress on these 17 goals. Goal No. 3 is Good Health, ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages.
So we cannot close our eyes to the fact that this product, which we have legalized, matagal na nating na-legalize because we did not prohibit it, and yet we passed legislation, that weakened legislation, is now out there. So I will continue to bring this to the body’s attention so that we can do our little part in ensuring that it does not do further damage to our youth and to the Filipino people.
Thank you very much, Mr President. #