The approval by the House of Representatives of a bill that seeks to regulate the use of electronic cigarettes is deemed a "massive legislative achievement" for tobacco harm reduction advocates.
Nancy Loucas, executive coordinator of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (Caphra), said the passage of House Bill (HB) 9007 or the "Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act" will save thousands of lives.
Voting 192-34-4, the House passed the measure on third and final reading on Tuesday.
The bill will now be sent to the Senate.
Loucas said nearly 90,000 Filipinos die of smoking-related diseases every year.
"This legislation will not only save thousands of lives, but the Philippines is now leading the way in the Asia Pacific region with reasonable, risk-proportionate regulation which will be very effective in curbing smoking rates," Loucas said.
Once the bill is enacted into law, it will remove any remaining vestiges of influence from foreigners, Caphra said.
These include raising the minimum allowable age to 25 and "banning flavors other than menthol and tobacco that was due to [take] effect in May 2022," it added.
Caphra, together with consumer advocates Vapers PH and the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association, noted vaping was the "most effective smoking cessation tool" to reduce the number of people smoking.
They argued the age of the majority in the Philippines was 18, so the manufacturing, distribution, promotion, sale, and use of such products would "bring vape in line with other 'adult' activities and privileges."
Adult smokers who are keen to quit tobacco need reasonable access to "safer" alternatives, the advocates said.
Under HB 9007, individuals aged 18 and above will be permitted to purchase and use electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems and heated tobacco products.
Some House lawmakers had expressed concern over the passage of the bill, saying it would put the health of young people at risk.
Caphra however said the move will help lower the country's "stubbornly high smoking rates."
"This proposed act will legitimize the market of vaporized nicotine products, which means consumers will have better protection," it said.
Peter Paul Dator, president of Vapers PH, said the country is legitimizing "the most effective method to quit smoking."