Thursday, May 30, 2024

Philippines: Joint House Committees Approve Vape and Heated Tobacco Bill


Last December, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, announced a ban on the use and import of e-cigarettes, adding that anyone caught using the products would be arrested. The ban had been announced during a late night news conference, after the President was asked about a Department of Health report confirming the first EVALI case in the country.

“I will ban it. The use and importation. You know why? Because it is toxic and the government has the power to issue measures to protect public health and public interest,” said Duterte at the time.

Thankfully, moving away from a ban to regulation, the joint committees have imposed clear guidelines on the production and importation of the products. Clear regulations have also been set for the minimum age for use (at 18 years), the use of health warnings similar to the ones for cigarettes and public places where consumers can vape.

The Non Combustible Nicotine Delivery System Regulation Act of 2020

If passed into law, the bill shall be known as the “Non Combustible Nicotine Delivery System Regulation Act of 2020” and has been voted for by a total of 88 congressmen. “Recognizing the need for a viable alternative to combustible cigarettes, governments around the world and leading public health institutions have explored the concept of harm reduction as a public health strategy to combat the smoking epidemic,” said Deputy House Speaker Deogracias Victor Savellano.

Harm reduction is grounded on the idea that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar. Hence, if there is a way to deliver nicotine to those who smoke cigarettes without the associated harmful by-products that are produced in combustible cigarettes, it would enable smokers to finally quit smoking,” added Savellano.

Minimum age set at 18

Retailers will be required to verify the age of all buyers via the presentation of any valid government-issued identification card.

With regards to the 18 years minimum age, retailers will be required to verify the age of all buyers via the presentation of any valid government-issued identification card exhibiting the buyer’s photograph and age/date of birth. Additionally, the sale and/or distribution of the products will not be permitted within one hundred (100) meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, playground or other facility frequented by minors.

The bill also requires all manufacturers, importers, and distributors of e-cigarettes and HTPs to place health warnings on the principal display surface with the text: “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance. It is not recommended for use by non-smokers” or “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.”

Displaying health warnings

Manufacturers will be required to “display other applicable graphic health warnings” as set by the relevant authorities.

Moreover, manufacturers will be required to “display other applicable graphic health warnings to be prescribed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Health (DOH) in the implementing rules and regulations of this Act.”

The sale or distribution of the products will be permitted online via internet websites, e-commerce and/or other similar media. However, the sellers or distributors must adopt measures to ensure that access to the internet website or via e-commerce and/or other similar media shall be restricted to persons eighteen (18) years old or older, and that the internet website shall bear the signages required under this Act.

Adverts’ restrictions

The bill would allow advertisements in retailer establishments, through direct marketing and online. These shall not be aimed at or particularly appeal to persons under eighteen (18) years of age, and must not undermine quit-smoking messages. Additionally, these adverts should not encourage non-tobacco and non-nicotine users to use e-cigarettes and HTPs, and any information with regard to product characteristics, health effects, risks, or emissions, must be true.

Section 14 of the bill states that the use of e-cigarettes and HTPs shall be prohibited in all enclosed public places except in designated vaping areas. The indoor use of these products will be  prohibited in schools, hospitals, government offices, and facilities intended particularly for minors.

Standards for specific features

Additionally, standards will be set in place for a number of features related to the devices. “The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in consultation with the FDA, has been tasked to set standards for market entry notification and standards on flavors and additives used in the manufacture of e-liquids and refills, as well as on electronic components of e-cigarettes,” read a press release.

“For HTPs, the DTI, in consultation with the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-Tobacco) created by virtue of Republic Act No. 9211, shall set standards on HTPs with regard to consumables and the electronic components. Existing industries and businesses affected by the implementation of the proposed Act shall be given an 18-month transitory period from the effectivity of the implementing rules and regulations to comply with the requirements.”

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