Unmasking the Vape Bill lies

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

  • Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467)
  • One of two senators who voted ‘no’ to the Vape Bill in the 18th Congress

One of the oldest tricks used by the intellectually dishonest are logical fallacies. These are arguments that seem compelling on the surface, but are really unsupported by facts or scientific evidence. In social debates, such fallacies are used to muddle issues and mislead the public.

That (1) “vapes are banned or unregulated by the government,” and (2) “the Vape Bill protects the youth” – are just two of many logical fallacies used by Vape Bill proponents to push their agenda. Recent pro-Vape Bill press releases are also replete with such lies.

First, vapes are currently not banned, but have been allowed to be sold for several years already. Thus, the Vape bill is not needed simply to make vapes available. It’s also not true that these products are unregulated. The regulatory system led by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took effect last May 25, as mandated by the Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467).

Second, the Vape Bill is not pro-youth. How can it be when it allows more flavors to flood the market by abolishing the RA 11467 provision that limits vapes to plain menthol and plain tobacco? And what could be more anti-youth than lowering the minimum age of access to e-cigs from 21 to 18?

And if in fact, the proponents really believe in regulation, then why are they silent about the Vape Bill’s provision removing the jurisdiction of FDA over vapes and transferring it to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)? What expertise does the DTI have in regulating products that are harmful to health?

I mentioned the false narratives of the Vape Bill camp in my letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, where I also echoed the stand of more than 60 medical associations, as well as the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), and Department of Finance (DOF) through their former heads.

May all lies be unmasked. May the truth prevail. Veto the Vape Bill. #

Veto the Vape Bill press conference
Echoing the stand of over 60 medical associations and concerned government agencies, Senator Pia S. Cayetano makes a final appeal to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to veto the controversial Vape Deregulation Bill.

Pia lauds DOH, FDA, PMA

Statement of Senator Pia S. Cayetano

  • One of two senators who voted against the Vape Bill in the 18th Congress
  • Principal sponsor, Sin Tax Law of 2020 (RA 11467)

The medical and scientific experts on tobacco and vape control have spoken. And they have unanimously taken a stand against the enactment of the Vape Bill, which seeks to severely weaken government regulations on vapes and e-cigarettes, while endangering public health and our youth’s future.

I laud the Department of Health (DOH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) for reaffirming their position that the Vape Bill must be vetoed by the President. Thank you for staying true to your mandate as vanguards of public health.

I urge the few doctors supporting the Vape Bill to read the measure in its entirety and answer these questions:

  1. Will the bill’s provisions lowering the age of access to vapes from 21 to 18, and allowing multiple vape flavors to flood the market benefit or harm the youth? and
  2. Will the bill’s provision transferring regulatory authority over vapes from FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ensure the protection of our people and youth from the harmful effects of vapes? I trust that the truth will help you rethink your stand.

Finally, I reiterate my call to the President to heed the united voice of health authorities and medical doctors to veto the Vape Bill. May we continue to build on our gains and work to create a safer and healthier nation for current and future generations of Filipinos. #

Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano has urged President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to heed the united call of government health authorities led by the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, and medical doctors through the Philippine Medical Association to veto the Vape Bill.

Pia appeals to PBBM: veto the Vape Bill

20 July 2022
President, Republic of the Philippines
Malacañang Palace, Manila

Your Excellency:

I am submitting this letter ad cautelam to raise substantial and procedural issues arising from the enrolled bill of the “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act,” also referred to as the “Vape Bill.”

The Vape Bill was approved by the 18th Congress, which had its final adjournment on 31 May 2022. [1] The term of its members, both from the House of Representatives and twelve of the members from the Senate, had also ended on 30 June 2022, the same time President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term as President ended.

Because President Duterte neither affixed his signature to the enrolled bill of the Vape Bill, nor exercised presidential veto over the same, before his term ended, we are placed in a legal quandary of having a bill passed by a Congress, composed of different members, that has been
rendered functus officio by its final adjournment, and submitted to the President whose term has ended, being signed into law by a new President. This would create a serious constitutional issue on the validity of a “law” enacted by a Congress without official authority.

As a health advocate, lawyer, and member of Congress, I am of the sentiment that we should avoid technicalities such as these as much as possible, when courts would be constrained to rule on the laws that we make.

Even setting the procedural and possible constitutional issues aside, I believe that Your Excellency should veto the Vape Bill based on the detrimental effects it would have on the health of our fellow Filipinos, as warned by medical associations and health advocates, former DOH secretaries, and concerned government agencies – Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Finance (DOF), and Department of Education (DepEd). These hazards are apparent from the changes the Vape Bill will bring about in our legal and regulatory framework on the industry of vapes and Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs), as further discussed below.

The proponents of the Vape Bill anchor their position on: (1) vapes and HTPs as being effective cessation tools from cigarette smoking; and (2) the need to regulate the industry.

However, these arguments are fatally flawed because rather than to regulate, the Vape bill actually removes the protective measures already found under Republic Act No. 11467 or the “Sin Tax Reform Act of 2020,” which was enacted into law last 22 January 2020.

The Vape Bill overturns the following key safeguard provisions of the Sin Tax Reform Act, which provided stricter regulations on the products to protect public health:

1) The jurisdiction to regulate vapes and HTPs will be transferred from the FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

It is incomprehensible how the DTI would perform the task of determining the safety of the products that will be on the market. By its very mandate, it is the FDA that has the power and the expertise to regulate this industry.

As a point of reference, the US FDA rejected 55,000 flavored e-cigarettes due to lack of evidence that they have a benefit to adult smokers sufficient enough to overcome the public health threat posed by the alarming levels of youth use of such products. [2]

DTI does not have the mandate and the expertise to determine the health effects of any product, let alone these sin products, which are detrimental to public health.

In fact, vape and HTP users will benefit with the FDA as the regulatory agency, as they will be assured that these products have undergone the appropriate tests based on scientific evidence and established health standards.

2) The prohibition to sell to persons below the age of 21 will be lowered to 18 years old. This means that even our senior high school students will have access to vapes and HTPs. The latest available data from the DepEd would show that there are 1,184,663 learners in senior high and 238,935 learners in junior high, who are at least 18 years old as of SY 2020-2021. By lowering the minimum age of access to vapes from 21 to 18 as mandated by the Vape Bill, the government would send the message to around 1.4 million junior
and senior high school students that it is alright to get hooked on vaping.

Studies have also shown that the brain continues to mature until the age of 25 and that early exposure to nicotine, through vapes and HTPs, could impair the brain’s development. [3]

3) More flavors are allowed, instead of just plain tobacco and plain menthol, which will make these sin products more appealing to the youth.

Vapes and HTPs are being marketed to attract younger people, some of whom have never even smoked a cigarette in their life.

On Regulation vs Ban and Revenue Collection

As a background, Congress had already settled the issue on whether to impose a total ban or to regulate vapes and HTPs during the deliberations on the Sin Tax Reform Act.[4] Both Houses agreed to regulate these sin products by institutionalizing the three (3) aforementioned
crucial protective measures under the said law.

Thus, the government wins by being able to collect much needed revenues from sin taxes, while at the same time minimizing the appeal of the products to the youth with the 21-year age requirement and the limitation of flavors, and it also ensures that there is proper regulation by the FDA.

On the other hand, lowering the minimum age of access to 18 years old will entail more problems for the country in the future. The youth and the next generations after them are possible casualties of vape- and HTP-related diseases. Simply put, the Vape Bill would further increase the cost of related diseases brought about by these products in the Philippines.

International Developments

It is shocking, to say the least, if we consider how differently the United States (US) is addressing the vape pandemic. The US FDA placed Juul’s application for its electronic cigarettes under “additional review.” In order to remain on the market, Juul must prove that their e-cigarettes benefit public health. On the other hand, here in the Philippines, the Vape Bill will allow the relaxation of health protective measures that are already provided under the Sin Tax Reform Act.

If there is one thing this pandemic has taught us, it is the importance of listening to science and the experts when it comes to protecting people’s health. If passed into law, the Vape Bill that is masquerading as a health bill will not only overturn important provisions under the Sin Tax Reform Act, but it will also open the doors for younger people to use these products, and practically encourage such practice in the guise of regulation.

I thus reiterate my urgent call and echo the appeal of more than sixty (60) medical associations and health advocates, former DOH secretaries, and concerned government agencies – DOH, FDA, DOF, and DepEd – to veto the Vape Bill.

We need to listen to health experts on the need to properly regulate vapes and HTPs as these products contain harmful chemicals that affect people’s health. This “regressive measure” goes against all the gains our country has made on tobacco and vape control. In fact, the Vape Bill does not regulate, but actually loosens crucial safeguards and makes these products more available to younger individuals.

Mr. President, I strongly urge you to VETO THE VAPE BILL.


Veto the Vape Bill press conference
“If passed into law, the Vape Bill that is masquerading as a health bill will not only overturn important provisions under the Sin Tax Reform Act, but it will also open the doors for younger people to use these products, and practically encourage such practice in the guise of regulation.” – Letter of Senator Pia S. Cayetano to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (dated July 20, 2022)

End notes:

[1] The Vape Bill was passed by both Houses on 26 January 2022, and was officially transmitted to Malacañang by the House of Representatives just this 24 June 2022, or five (5) months after its passage and barely three (3) working days before the end of former President Duterte’s term.

[2] FDA Denies Marketing Applications for About 55,000 Flavored E-Cigarette Products for Failing to Provide Evidence They Appropriately Protect Public Health (2021, August 6). US FDA. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-denies-marketing-applications-about-55000-flavored-e-cigarette-products-failing-provide-evidence

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/Quick-Facts-on-the-Risks-of-E-cigarettes-for-Kids-Teens-and-Young-Adults.html#two

[4] Cayetano, P. S. (2019, September 30). “Excise Tax on Alcohol Products.” Philippines. Senate of the Philippines. 18th Congress, 1st Regular Session.

Public health wins in SC decision upholding FDA’s authority

Opening statement of Senator Pia Cayetano
News conference with health advocates
24 June 2022, Philippine Senate

I am delighted to talk about this landmark Supreme Court (SC) decision that is very science-based and upholds the right of Filipinos to health.

And this decision is the case (GR 2200431) where the SC ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the power and the authority to regulate cigarettes.

This decision of the SC is so relevant because when I worked on the FDA law (RA 9711) – that was 2009 in the 14th Congress, and I was just on my fifth year as a senator – I was already fighting that the FDA should regulate all products that affect health, kasi yun ang definition sa FDA Law. ‘Health product’ refers to any product that may have an effect on health. In 2009, pinaglalaban ko na yun.

Fast-forward to this Congress, in the last six months prior to the campaign period, pinaglaban ko na naman, because of this new product called the e-cigs and the vapes. In-explain ko na ang health products, as defined by law, is anything that affects health. And the example I gave, sabi ko shampoo, conditioner, insect repellant, lotion, cosmetics, food products – lahat yun nire-regulate ng FDA. So, dapat ang vapes and e-cigs, i-regulate din.

And now, the SC has upheld basically that principle – that if it is a product that affects your health, the FDA should regulate. So talagang nagpapasalamat ako na after all these years, this law can now be implemented.

And on that note, I’ll pass on the floor to our vanguards of health, the doctors, as I said, many of whom have worked on this FDA law, on tobacco control, and even now on these related products called vapes and e-cigs:

Dr. Maricar Limpin
Executive Director, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP)

Dr. Maricar Limpin
“Hopefully the incumbent President heeds the call of doctors and health advocates to veto the vape bill.”

Bilang isang doktor, napakahalaga sa amin na mabigyan ng proteksyon ang kalusugan ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino; Kami ay lubos na nagagalak at buong pusong sumusuporta sa landmark decision ng SC kung saan na-reaffirm ang constitutional mandate ng FDA over any product na pwedeng mag-cause ng injury or harm sa kalusugan.

Every hour, 13 Filipinos die from tobacco use, according to the Global Burden of Disease report published in 2017.

Kailangan ng ahensya na may mandatong proteksyunan ang kalusugan ng mamamayang Pilipino, walang iba kundi ang FDA

Unfortunately, napasa ang Vape Bill in Congress. Sana with this SC decision, mabuksan ang kaisipan ng mamamayan pati leaders ng bansa. Hopefully the incumbent President heeds the call of doctors and health advocates to veto the vape bill

Definitely, the DTI cannot do the job of protecting health; only the FDA has power to do that with the leadership of DOH

Dr. Edgardo Ulysses Dorotheo
Executive Director, Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA)

Dr. Yul Dorotheo
“SC said the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) is already part of the law of the land. Hindi totoo ang sinasabi ng industry na RA 9211 lang ang batas na nagre-regulate sa tobacco.”

In all other ASEAN countries, it is the ministry of health regulating tobacco products.

It is very unusual na dito sa Pilipinas, nilagay ang DTI as the head of the interagency committee on tobacco.

In the US, the US FDA is considering lowering the level of nicotine in cigarettes and banning menthol in tobacco products. They also regulate e-cigs.

Before the US surgeon general came out with the first report on smoking and health in 1964, cigarettes were considered as consumer products for 60 years. Since 1964, governments across the world have been regulating tobacco products as health products. Humahabol lang po tayo sa kasaysayan.

More than 8 million people are killed every year due to tobacco – more than 120,000 Filipinos a year. It is not just a regular consumer product. Cigarettes are now more harmful than before.

SC said the WHO FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) is already part of the law of the land. Hindi totoo ang sinasabi ng industry na RA 9211 lang ang batas na nagre-regulate sa tobacco

Dahil dito, tumatawag kami sa pangulo to veto the Vape Bill pending in his office bago bumaba sa pagka-pangulo, para sa kalusugan ng lahat ng Pilipino.

Dr. Ken Hartigan-Go
Former Director-General, FDA

Dr. Ken Hartigan-Go
“After almost 10 years, we got the law interpreted correctly. Cigarettes are products that contain harmful substances that affect health.”

After almost 10 years, we got the law interpreted correctly. Cigarettes are products that contain harmful substances that affect health.

Our tobacco regulation framework should cover 5 Ps:
•Producers: should be obligated to disclose limits of capacity;
•Process: what processes are involved in making the products;
•Product: what hazardous chemicals are present in the products;
•Place: where are they advertised, etc.; and
•People/public: the role of regulation is to help public decide what is safe and unsafe

At the end of the day, consumers should be able to make the right choices.

Dr. Rizalina Racquel Gonzalez
Chairperson, Philippine Pediatric Society Tobacco Control Advocacy Group

Dr. Riz Gonzalez
“The number one factor that attracts kids to e-cigs are flavors, online accessibility, and e-cigs being advertised as safer than cigs – pero walang katotohanan.”

Senator Pia is our hero noon pa man, pinaglalaban niya ang kalusugan ng kabataan.

Hindi namin malilimutan ang mandatory hepa b vaccination (RA 10152). Napakarami na pong success stories ng mga batang naalis sa panganib. It’s a very good public health measure.

Tuwang-tuwa kami that the SC upheld the FDA as a regulatory body for tobacco and related products.

Marami ang nagtatanong sa amin: ano po ba ginagawa ng government para ma-protect ang mga bata?

Ngayon, masasagot na namin nang malinaw: that the government is working for the protection of children’s right to health.

Now, there’s a very controversial bill na malaki ang epekto sa kabataan.

The number one factor that attracts kids to e-cigs are flavors, online accessibility, and e-cigs being advertised as safer than cigs – pero walang katotohanan.

Ang FDA bilang regulatory body ay may ngipin para protektahan ang kabataan.

Sana ang Vape Bill na nakabinbin, i-veto. Kabataan ang maaapektuhan nito. Sana FDA ang maging regulatory body, at ma-implement ang flavor restrictions na attractive sa mga bata.

Atty. Benedict Nisperos
Legal consultant, Health Justice Philippines

Atty. Ben Nisperos, Health Justice
“Any attempt to remove the FDA’s regulatory power over these products is a betrayal of public health.”

We stand with the landmark decision of SC. It reinforces our continuing advocacy to protect the people’s right to health.

[Tobacco products] is a public health concern that must be regulated by the FDA. Any attempt to remove the FDA’s regulatory power over these products is a betrayal of public health.

We express our gratitude to Senator Pia for leading the cause to implement the FDA’s mandate to regulate these products. It’s a victory for the people

We want to highlight other victories:
•The upholding of tobacco as ‘health products’;
•The upholding of FDA’s mandate to regulate; and
•Recognition of WHO FCTC as part of the law of the land.

We see the following action points to safeguard this decision:
•Strengthen FDA by investing resources in them;
•Invest more on health promotion; and
•Encourage everyone to stay vigilant against machinations of the industry to advocate their interests. Case in point is the Vape Bill.

This will not be the last time we will see the tobacco industry influencing public policy. But as long as we help each other for the right to health, we will succeed.

Senator Pia Cayetano’s closing statement:

Each of the speakers today spoke about the different aspects of how this landmark decision can really turn around the health of Filipinos. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of illness. And I am not a doctor, I always make that disclaimer, but having listened to a lot of health experts and studied on my own, [smoking] aggravates a lot of other health conditions.

So like I said, it is timely because in the last six months prior to the campaign, we debated this issue involving vapes and e-cigs.

Nakakatawa kasi kinukwento ko kay doktora dito na on my way here, sinabi ko sa anak ko na 12 years old, papunta ako sa meeting kung saan pag-uusapan namin ang dangers ng vape. Tapos sabi ng anak ko, “didn’t you ban that already?” Kasi naaalala niya na sinabi ni Presidente na iba-ban. Tapos sabi ko, “kung ako tatanungin, gusto ko i-ban, pero may ibang issues involved diyan so the final decision in the Senate, at least, and Congress, in general, was that we will regulate.”

Kaya nga meron tayong Sin Tax Law (RA 11467), wherein it was very clear in my mind that instead of banning – and I remember Sen. Tolentino was one of the proponents of banning – we will highly regulate.

That’s why in the Sin Tax Law pa lang, andoon ang tatlong major provisions, one of which is FDA will regulate, because yun na yung talagang number one protective measure natin. And to give an example, months later nung Vape Bill na ang pinagdi-diskusyunan, sabi ko, in the US, 55,000 flavors were banned by the US FDA, tapos dito, ayaw niyo ibigay sa FDA? Sino ngayon ang magre-regulate ng flavors na yun?

My late father (Senator Rene L. Cayetano), it’s his death anniversary tomorrow (June 24). And ang aking desire to serve the Filipino people was also brought about of course by his serving the Filipino people. So when you [Dr. Gonzalez] mentioned hepatitis, sabi ko timely nga because doon ako nag-umpisa, yung interest ko on healthcare.

Back to my story, I mentioned [my father] because it was his belief na kailangan magpaliwanag ka sa tao na parang hindi ka abogado. Magpaliwanag ka, sa paraan na maiintindihan niya. And that’s why in-explain ko ito in a way na maiintindihan ng anak ko na 12 years old.

So balik ako sa kwento, sabi niya, “Oh so you didn’t ban?” Sabi ko kasi nagkaroon kami ng debate kaso natalo ako. Nilagay namin ang regulations, pero nagkaroon ng another bill na tinanggal pa sa FDA – sinabi ko pa yun, the government agency that tells you if the ingredients are not good. So sabi niya, “Oh, so that’s democracy.”

And I said, “that is democracy.” I lost, natalo ako sa botohan. Sometimes, I am not happy about the outcome of democracy, but that is democracy. We represent the Filipino people and my colleagues voted na tanggalin yan sa FDA. Nakakalungkot but that is democracy. But this is also democracy: that we can still talk about it, we can go to the SC, which we did.

Democracy included that the FDA law 12 years ago, na sinabi [ng tobacco industry] na hindi kasama ang cigarette. Bakit special ba kayo? VIP kayo? Bakit hindi kayo kasama? Well now, the SC has said, “Hindi, kasama kayo.”

And I love the clarification that Dr. Ken gave na teka, baka akala niyo kung sinabing kasama sa ‘health products’ ang cigarettes is may benefit yun? All he was saying, which I think is worth repeating is, sabi ng batas, anything that affects the health, in that sense, is a health product, na dapat i-regulate. Hindi ibig sabihin healthy siya. In the case of cigarettes, walang healthy doon.

I bring it back to the present day na we are rejoicing that the SC made this decision, and the decision is clearly that the FDA must regulate all products that affect health. So this to me would clearly include vapes and e-cigs. On that note, it makes it simpler if the President would veto the bill. A lot of us are quite confident because naiintindihan niya ang science. We are hoping talaga that he would veto.

But from what I know, wala pa sa Malacanang ang bill [Vape Bill] na medyo nagtataka ako, kasi January pa pumasa yan at wala pa sa Malacanang. So as far as I am concerned, pagdating ng June 30 and wala pa yan kay Presidente… because that is his responsibility, we pray that he will do the right thing and veto it. But if hindi pa pinadala sa Malacanang yan before June 30, tapos na yan. Because it was not sent to the President on time. And my prayer is that the new President and his administration would uphold healthcare. I know the President comes from a tobacco-growing [province], but I also know that the President will do what he needs to do to protect the health of the Filipino people.

So whatever challenges we have in the days to come, lahat tayo Pilipino, sabi nga ng anak ko, this is democracy, we will use the legal system to ensure that we can protect the health of the Filipinos, and we look forward to this administration doing the same, kasi nasa kanila naman yun. That is in the hands of the administration to take the lead and to lead by example. #


Pia to vape bill proponents: stop spreading lies

The Vape Bill does not protect the youth 

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Sponsor, Sin Tax Reform Law of 2020 (RA 11467)

I urge the proponents of the Vape Bill to stop claiming that their measure is beneficial to the youth. That’s a blatant lie.

The proponents say that their bill “[solidifies] the provisions of RA 11467 and Executive Order 106” by strengthening the flavor ban on e-cigarettes. If that was the case, then they should have just kept the provision of the Sin Tax Law – which limits vape flavors to plain tobacco and plain menthol only.

Instead, they provided wording that allows hundreds and thousands of flavors to flood the market. How will they even regulate all these flavors? In the US, 55,000 flavors were rejected by the US FDA for failing to provide evidence that they protect public health. Kaya ba natin gawin yun dito? Eh tinanggal pa nga nila sa bill nila ang FDA bilang regulatory body sa e-cigarettes at flavors.

The youth would have been better protected if we retained the access to these harmful products at 21 years old but instead, they made it easier for the youth to access the same. The Sin Tax Reform Law of 2020 placed this at 21 years old, but the Vape Bill lowered it to 18 years old, so now even senior high school students can buy and use vapes. So where’s the ‘protection’ for the youth that the Vape Bill proponents claim? #

Senator Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia Cayetano: “I urge the proponents of the Vape Bill to stop claiming that their measure is beneficial to the youth. That’s a blatant lie.”

Unmasking the Vape Bill

Vape bill protects the interest of industry, not people

Manifestation on the Senate’s ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the Vape Bill

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano

January 26, 2022

Mr. President, the bicameral report was read past 9:00 pm last night. And as I manifested, it was not on the agenda and therefore, I was not aware that it was going to be taken up. And I had then said that I would make my manifestation today, because at that point, it was already ratified by the time I logged on. Traditionally, we are allowed to ask the sponsor questions during the report on the bicam. But as I said, since it was already ratified, I will simply make my manifestation:

I recognize the efforts that the sponsor put into this measure. Unfortunately, it is a version that supports the industry and not the Filipino people. More than 60 health associations and civil society organizations, the Department of Health, and former health secretaries have strongly opposed this measure. In fact, time and again, since December, they have called for the veto of the measure.

For the record, during the sin tax debates in this Congress, there were colleagues and even health professionals calling for the banning of these products. But we decided to regulate the same provided that key safeguards were put in place. Those 3 key safeguards are the following: 1) FDA regulates, 2) age of access is 21 and 3) limiting the flavors to plain tobacco and plain menthol.

Barely a year after the Sin Tax was passed, the Senate started to tackle the subject bill. This measure included Senate Bill No. 2099, which I filed, and other bills that were originally referred to the Committee on Health, and yet these bills were transferred to the Committee on Trade, which went on to tackle the same.

Included in this (Committee Report) were provisions that overturned the safeguards in the Sin Tax Law. And sadly, they were passed by the Senate and carried in the bicam, which are the following:

1. Exclusive jurisdiction transferred to DTI
2. Age of access lowered to 18
3. No key restrictions on flavors

Here are the details.

On the first point, DTI, a trade agency, that has nothing to do with the healthcare of people, is given the exclusive jurisdiction over any and all issues, requirements, and subject matters related to e-cigs. Based on their mandate, DTI is responsible for investments and export promotion, industry development, and MSME development. As I have said, and will not tire of saying, nowhere in their mandate does it say that the DTI can determine the health effects of products, let alone vapor products, which are detrimental to public health. Even the industry cannot say… Thousands of flavors were rejected by the US FDA. Does the DTI have the political will or the expertise to do the same? To reject flavors that will be proposed to be carried in the market? We know very well that their mandate is to promote business. I submit that they will not have the political will nor the capacity to regulate the flood of flavors that we will be exposed to and our young children.

On the second point, the minimum age of sale and purchase is now pegged at 18 years of age. These products will now be accessible even to senior high school students. According to experts, the brain continues to mature until the age of 25, and that early exposure to nicotine through vapor products could impair the brain’s development.

On the third point, other flavors are still allowed. Despite the restrictions on the descriptors, we know very well that the wide array of flavors will make the product more attractive especially to the youth.

So those are the 3 main points, your honor, that were carried in the bicameral report that we continue to oppose. Changes in the bicam report that further relax regulation on e-cigs. These are but a few examples, your honor:

Sponsorships are now allowed even beyond industry associations and trade events.

In the version of the Senate, which was our proposal, originally sponsorships were only limited in industry associations and trade events. This was our specific amendment to address events being targeted to all and not just to those who are already within the vaping industry. Now, it will be open to all.

It also allows companies to conduct corporate social responsibility related activities. Mr President, under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Principle 6, Corporate Social Responsibility activities should be prohibited. We are now in clear violation of an international agreement that we have historically honored.

Let me end with this Mr President.

As we honor and throw our support behind the efforts of our health workers with the right hand, with our left hand, we are giving a free pass to a line of products that directly affects our health. It boggles the mind that as we deal with over 5.63 Million deaths around the world and more than 53,000 deaths in the Philippines due to COVID, we allow this industry to promote their products touted as a lesser evil by the industry and its proponents.

I will not be a party to a bill that is masquerading as a health regulation. As I said, over 60 health associations and civil society organizations, the Department of Health, and former health secretaries have expressed strong opposition to this measure and continuously warned us about these products and the need to regulate the same by the one agency tasked by our laws, to ensure that products that affect our health are regulated. That is the FDA. Not the DTI.

Once again, I must state for the record that I disassociate myself from this measure. Thank you, Mr. President. #

“I will not be a party to a bill that is masquerading as a health regulation,” stressed Senator Pia S. Cayetano as she manifested her opposition to the bicameral version of the Vape Bill that was adopted by the Senate.