THE Philippines is supporting World Health Organization (WHO)-backed proposals to regulate Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), or e-cigarettes—the use of which is popularly known as “vaping”—presented during the seventh biennial Conference of Parties of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) held in November.
The FCTC Bureau is seeking to apply regulatory measures “to prohibit or restrict the manufacture, importation, distribution, presentation, sale and use of ENDS,” citing possible health risks.
FCTC is the first treaty under the auspices of the WHO in response to what the global health organization describes as a “tobacco epidemic.”
Its ratification in February 2005 obliged the Philippines as one of its signatories to put the utmost priority on public health over other interests in relation to the manufacture, sale, and use of tobacco products.
Advocates of “vaping” recommend the use of ENDS as an alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes.
The Department of Health and WHO estimate that 70 thousand Filipinos die per year due to tobacco-related diseases, or about eight deaths per hour.
However, WHO officially discourages the use of ENDS unless it is proven “safe and effective, and of accepted quality by a competent national regulatory body.”
The DOH said it agrees with WHO’s position on potential risks to the health of users, as these have not yet been clearly determined.
Currently, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the products, manufacturers, and distributors of ENDS to ensure the safety and welfare of consumers.
ENDS are also not exempt from ‘clean air laws’ that restrict places where cigarette smoking is allowed.
A question was briefly raised at the conference about why Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chairperson Alicia Bala rather than DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial was heading the Philippine delegation.
The CSC has led government initiatives on tobacco control, the delegation clarified, as it heads the National Tobacco Control Committee.
Among the tobacco control initiatives under the CSC were the issuance of an absolute smoking ban in all government offices in 2009, and in 2010, CSC partnered with DOH in imposing a ban on all government officials and employees from interacting with the tobacco industry unless it is for the effective regulation, supervision or control of tobacco products.