Philippines Enacts Pro-Consumer Vaping Bill - A Milestone for Vaping Regulations
The Philippines' vaping regulation bill passed in January has recently become law, marking a significant milestone in the country's approach to vaping regulations. This legislation positions the Philippines as one of the few Asian countries with reasonable vaping regulations, aimed at benefiting both smokers and potential smokers who might consider using vapor products as an alternative. In this article, we will explore the implications of the new law and how it can potentially impact nicotine consumers in the country.
The Journey to Becoming Law
The Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act was overwhelmingly passed (19-2) by the Philippines Senate in January and was quickly reconciled with a version previously approved by the House of Representatives. Following its transmission to then-President Rodrigo Duterte on June 24, there were ongoing efforts to persuade both President Duterte and his successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to either sign or veto the bill. However, neither president took any action, leading the bill to "lapse" into law on July 25. It will become official two weeks after its publication in the country's Official Gazette.
The Impact on Nicotine Consumers
The most crucial aspect of the law is its recognition of vaping as a viable strategy to help smokers reduce or eliminate their health risks. With over 16 million smokers in the Philippines, providing them with a government-approved, regulated alternative could potentially save millions of lives. While the exact specifics of the final Senate bill and the reconciled version remain unclear due to unavailability, it is evident that the law grants authority to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to regulate vaping and heated tobacco products in collaboration with the Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The goal is to set technical safety and quality standards for such products, excluding those that don't contain nicotine.
Salient Points of the Vaping Law
The new vape law introduces several key provisions that have significant implications for both the industry and consumers:
1. Online Sales and Nicotine Strengths
The law permits online sales of vaping products and allows products with nicotine strengths of up to 65 mg/mL (6.5 percent). Additionally, it lowers the legal age of purchase from 21 to 18, potentially increasing the number of young people turning to vaping instead of smoking, given that the legal age to buy cigarettes is also 18.
2. Sales Restrictions and Penalties
The new law imposes restrictions on where vaping products can be sold and sets penalties for stores and online retailers found selling to minors. It also places constraints on advertising, including the use of social media influencers and celebrities to promote vaping products.
3. Flavor Regulations
While the law may not outright ban flavors, it prohibits labels and advertising that use "flavor descriptors proven to unduly appeal particularly to minors." This approach aims to strike a balance between preserving choices for adult consumers while safeguarding minors from marketing tactics.
4. Battling Influence and Achieving Change
The passing of this vaping law represents a significant achievement for Filipino vaping advocates. Southeast Asia has predominantly adhered to the World Health Organization's (WHO) prohibitionist ideology regarding nicotine and tobacco policy. Most neighboring countries have implemented outright vape bans, following WHO recommendations. Thus, for vaping advocates in the Philippines to successfully combat the influence of tobacco control establishments and eventually enshrine tobacco harm reduction in law is commendable.
The Month of Lobbying
The transition of the Philippines presidency in July brought about a unique situation where two presidents, Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos Jr., had the opportunity to pass or veto the vaping bill. Ultimately, both presidents decided not to take any action, allowing the bill to become law automatically. However, the month leading up to this decision witnessed a flurry of lobbying efforts.
Support and Opposition
The vaping bill faced strong opposition from the Philippines Department of Health and various medical and tobacco control groups. The new law's shift in regulatory authority from the Philippines FDA to the DTI generated hostility among entrenched public health interests and regional and international organizations.
On the other hand, the bill received support from medical organizations advocating tobacco harm reduction (THR) to combat smoking-related diseases and fatalities. Additionally, the PhilTobacco Growers Association, representing 50,000 Filipino tobacco growers, endorsed the production of nicotine for vaping products as a means to support farmers.
The coming months will be crucial to observe how tobacco control and public health groups respond to the new vape law. The question is whether they will allow the law to function and achieve its intended goals or attempt to undermine DTI's regulation by influencing public opinion against vaping. Ultimately, the success of this legislation will depend on effective implementation and continuous evaluation of its impact on both consumers and the vaping industry.
The Philippines' journey toward enacting a pro-consumer vaping law showcases the country's commitment to finding a balanced approach to regulation. By legitimizing vaping as a harm reduction strategy, the law aims to provide smokers with a safer alternative and potentially save millions of lives. It will be essential for stakeholders to monitor and support the law's implementation to ensure its success in promoting public health and consumer welfare.
1. Will the new vaping law ban all flavors?
The new law does not outright ban flavors but prohibits labels and advertising that use flavor descriptors proven to appeal particularly to minors.
2. What authority does the law grant for regulating vaping products?
The law empowers the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to regulate vaping and heated tobacco products in consultation with the Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
3. Can minors purchase vaping products under the new law?
No, the new law lowers the legal age of purchase from 21 to 18, and stores and online retailers found selling to minors will face penalties.
4. How will the law impact tobacco growers?
The PhilTobacco Growers Association believes that the production of nicotine for vaping products can support Filipino tobacco growers.
5. Is the Philippines the only Asian country with reasonable vaping regulations?
No, while it is one of the few Asian countries with such regulations, other nations in the region have implemented outright vape bans based on WHO recommendations.