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. #