NINE out of 10 smokers support the enactment of the proposed Vape bill that will provide less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes, a consumer study showed.

They believe that the government should enact policies to encourage adult smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives to cigarettes while also ensuring these products are not used by minors.

The Senate and House of Representatives approved in 2021 their respective versions of the measure.

Once signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte, the Vaporized Nicotine Products Bill will regulate e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products (HTPs) and other vaporized nicotine products while ensuring that they contribute to government revenues.

The study was conducted by Acorn Marketing and Research Consultants and commissioned by consumer advocacy group Vapers PH in August 2021.

Acorn is the largest independent Asian research network with offices in 11 Asian countries including the Philippines. The survey had a sample size of 2,000 legal-age smokers.

Results of the survey showed that 90 percent of the respondents believe that the government should come up with new ways to reduce the harm caused by smoking cigarettes.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, the main sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) 2239, said, "It is good public policy for people smoking to shift to these types [vaporized nicotine] of products" as "there will be less death and less expense on the part of society in treating patients."

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto 3rd said he has a personal reason for voting "yes" to the bill. "My brother was a heavy smoker for 45 years. When he switched to heated tobacco now, he has stopped completely smoking and is very healthy," he explained.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri said electronic nicotine products and heated tobacco products could serve as alternatives to cigarettes.

"There's an alternative; until they finally get off these gadgets, let's give them an alternative to a better life," Zubiri said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he supported SB 2239 in the hope that it could further bring down the incidence of cigarette smoking in the Philippines.

"My vote is for those who want to quit cigarette smoking and turn to vapes and e-cigarettes as cessation aids. If vaporized nicotine products can help millions quit cigarette smoking, then I am willing to give it a chance," Drilon said.

Sen. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara voiced hope that cigarette smoking addiction would be mitigated by a switch to vaporized or vaping products.

"There is anecdotal evidence to that effect from many personal colleagues, even from one of our colleagues," he said.

Sen. Richard "Dick" Gordon, however, said "there is no justification for smoking and the only justification is free will."

"On the other hand, I have a lot of friends who have switched to vaping. And vaping is a soft landing for them," he said.

Public Health England, the highest health authority in the United Kingdom, acknowledged that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than tobacco.

About 1 million former Filipino smokers have switched to smoke-free products, such as electronic cigarettes and HTPs which, according to several scientific studies, are less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

Studies show that it is the smoke from combustion that releases harmful substances to the body and not nicotine, which is a food-grade substance.

The Senate on Dec. 16, 2021 approved on third and final reading SB 2239, or the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation bill.

The House of Representatives on May 25, 2021 approved its own version of the measure — House Bill (HB) 9007 or the "Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act."

SB 2239 and HB 9007 will be reconciled by a bicameral conference committee and ratified by the two chambers when sessions resume after the holidays.

The reconciled bill will then be submitted to the President for his approval and signature.

Intended to help adult smokers quit cigarettes, the bill has strong measures intended to protect minors from accessing and consuming the device.

It ensures that minors will not have access to the vape products, as it bans the sale to and use by minors, and the sale, advertising and promotion of vape products within 100 meters of school perimeter and playground.

Use of flavor descriptors that unduly appeal to minors in vape products and the display of vape products immediately next to products of particular interest to minors are prohibited.

Consumer and tobacco harm reduction advocacy groups said the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation bill will help save the lives of over 16 million Filipino smokers.

"We strongly believe that vaping saves lives. This is based on our experience and on scientific studies, which found e-cigarettes to be 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes," the groups said.

They include Vapers PH, Vaper Ako, Smoke Free Conversation PH, Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines, Philippine E-cigarette Industry Association, Quit For Good, Heated Equipment as Alternative to Traditional Smoking Philippines, Provape, Philippine Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates Inc. and Consumer Choice Philippines.

The bill is expected to reduce the smoking rate in the Philippines and provide Filipino smokers a way out of smoking through less harmful, smoke-free alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.