THIS is in response to the editorial published by The Manila Times on Oct. 4, 2021, titled "Senate bill on vaping deceptively portrayed." The piece discussed the dangers of Senate Bill (SB) 2239, known as the "Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act," and urged senators to vote against this harmful measure, which relaxes existing e-cigarette and vape regulations.

We strongly agree that SB 2239 is indeed a deception; rather than protecting the youth, it exposes them to harm by lowering the minimum age of access to e-cigarettes from 21 to 18 years old, allowing additive flavors, which attract the younger generation, and allowing online sales of e-cigarettes. Legislators are unnecessarily diluting the law regulating e-cigarettes that was already adopted last year.

Smoking is a habit that often forms in one's younger years. Most smokers start before they turn 21. The first case of e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (Evali) recorded in the Philippines was that of a 16-year-old. It is thus crucial that we protect the youth from accessing these products.

On the arguments of vaping curbing cigarette addiction, replacing one addiction with another is neither safe nor healthy. There is no high quality evidence behind the claim that e-cigarettes are less harmful than manufactured cigarettes. In fact, one e-cigarette pod is equal to 40 cigarettes worth of nicotine.

Plus, there are effective ways to quit smoking that do not expose one to this level of harm, including nicotine replacement therapy, counseling, and family support.

The September 2021 Pulse Asia Ulat ng Bayan survey revealed that 85 percent of vape/e-cigarette users support restricting age accessibility to e-cigarettes and vapes at 21 years old and above. Sixty-six percent of vape/e-cigarette users support banning the availability and accessibility of e-cigarette or vape flavors that appeal to children and youth. Seventy percent of vape/e-cigarette users consider the effect of these products on health as a serious health hazard. Even vape and e-cigarette users themselves identify vape and e-cigarette products as harmful, and they agree that these products require stricter regulation.

If overwhelming public sentiment supports existing vaping regulations and recognizes vaping as a health hazard, why should we relax these regulations? Why should we make it easier for the youth to start an addictive habit that has proven to lead to serious lung injury and death?

Senators must vote against this bill and retain the minimum age of access to e-cigarettes, prohibit flavored additives in e-cigarettes, and prohibit online sale of e-cigarettes. Instead of protecting industry, let's protect future generations from the vaping illness epidemic already taking place in other countries.

Corry Avanceña, MD

Pediatric pulmonologist

Chair, subcommittee on anti-smoking;

Overall chair, committee on environmental respiratory health

Philippine Academy of Pediatric Pulmonologists

Ma. Encarnita B. Limpin, MD, FPCP, FPCCP, FPSCCM, FPSSM

President, Philippine College of Physicians

Rizalina Racquel H. Gonzalez, MD, FPPS

Chairperson, Philippine Pediatric Society

Tobacco Control Advocacy Group