Groups representing more than 200,000 vapers in the Philippines called on President Rodrigo Duterte to retract his order banning vaping products, saying these are less harmful than cigarettes.
In a joint statement, the Philippine E-cigarette Industry Association (Pecia), Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (Caphra), the Vapers Alliance and Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines said the President was ill-advised when he announced a ban on the use and importation of vapes (e-cigarettes).
Duterte on Tuesday also ordered the police to arrest anyone caught vaping or using e-cigarettes in public, saying it was meant to protect the health of Filipinos.
Caphra said a ban on vaping would worsen the smoking situation in the Philippines.
“As an anti-smoker, it is as if the President is encouraging vapers to go back to smoking which is ironic. The scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are 95-percent less harmful was ignored/disregarded,” Clarisse Virgino, a Caphra Philippine representative, said.
For its part, Pecia said regulation was the best way to address concerns on e-cigarettes.
“Although not risk-free, e-cigarettes are still much better alternatives to cigarettes. The planned executive order of the President should regulate the manufacture, sale and use of e-cigarettes,” it said.
Meanwhile, Vapers Alliance said in the United Kingdom where e-cigarettes are regulated, there is zero incident of vaping-related lung injury.
“In the United States, there is zero regulation. That’s why you have a number of vapers getting sick,” it added.
“Reckless driving, and driving while under the influence of alcohol is deadly. Should we ban cars and alcohol? We cannot ban vaping simply because other people are not following the rules,” Vapers Alliance further said.
The groups also contradicted a recent Department of Health claim that about 1 million Filipinos use e-cigarettes, saying the problem stemmed from the government’s failure to regulate the e-cigarette industry and not from the alleged unknown chemicals contained in electronic nicotine delivery systems.
Meanwhile, the Department of Finance (DoF) renewed its call on lawmakers to approve the proposed additional “sin” taxes on e-cigarettes and vapes.
Finance Secretary Carlo Dominguez 3rd said the DoF is awaiting the executive order of Duterte on the ban.
“In the meantime, we urge the legislature to pass a measure that is pending their approval,” he added.
Dominguez is referring to Senate Bill (SB) 1074, which seeks to increase current rates of e-cigarettes under the heat-not-burn product category to P10 per pack of 20 to P45 per pack in the first year of implementation to be at parity with regular cigarettes.
For vapor products, there will be a distinction between salt nicotine and freebase. From P10 per 10 millimeter (ml) or less, salt nicotine will increase to P45 per ml, while freebase will increase to P45 per 10 ml on the first year of implementation.
These rates will increase by P5 every year until the fourth year of implementation then 5 percent every year thereafter.
These tax rates are expected to raise the government’s incremental revenues of P47.9 billion to P61.2 billion in the first year of its implementation.
SB 1074 represents Package 2 Plus of the Duterte administration’s comprehensive tax reform program.
The House of Representatives has approved its counterpart version of SB 1074 — House Bill 1026 — on August 20.
Albay Second District Rep. Joey Salceda said lawmakers would likely raise the tax rate on vaping products because of the “intention to ban.”
“Kagabi (Wednesday night), upon listening to the President…It’s just like another smoking so we’re adjusting,” Salceda, chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, said.
“P45 per ml from the current P25. So effectively we are making it more prohibitive,” Salceda said.
With a reports from REINA C. TOLENTINO