Vape smokers may now face arrest following a memorandum issued by the police in Central Visayas in compliance with the verbal order of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Joy Torrejos
Trying to avoid smoking, Duterte vaping ban puts quitters with smokers
Prinz Magtulis (Philstar.com) - February 28, 2020 - 1:52pm

MANILA, Philippines — After President Duterte banned vaping on public spaces on Friday, Filipino electronic cigarette manufacturers are raising concerns lumping smokers and vapers on one “designated area” risks putting people trying to quit tobacco together with smokers, essentially running against people's reason for vaping and the government's overarching anti-smoking campaign.

“It defeats the purpose" of vaping, Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-cigarette Industry Association (PECIA), told Philstar.com in a phone interview.

The contested provision is contained on Duterte’s latest Executive Order 106, which prohibits vaping on enclosed public spaces and limits them to “designated smoking/vaping areas.” Illegal manufacturing of e-cigarettes and liquids inhaled through them were also banned.

While the medical jury is still out on vaping, PECIA has repeatedly contested that e-cigarettes are healthier substitutes to tobacco, with vapers practically using e-cigarettes to get out of the dangerous smoking habit.  

That smoking and vaping is lumped together in an area in the latest EO, Dulay said shows the government’s treatment of “vaping like smoking has not changed.” 

Tobacco smoking kills eight million people a year, 1.2 million of whom are actually non-smokers who only get exposed to second-hand smoke, data from the World Health Organization showed.

“You cannot expect businesses to have separate vaping and smoking areas. Businesses say it is logistically difficult and expensive,” he explained.

Gaining ground on the fight against tobacco through higher levies, governments from Brazil to Indonesia have begun running after e-cigarettes using the same tactic of taxes and vaping barriers. But the Philippines, under Duterte, has so far had the toughest approach against vaping in Southeast Asia.

Prior to the EO, Duterte verbally ordered the arrest of e-cigarette users, sans any law banning the activity, last November. That was preceded by a Manila court order that stopped the Health department from enforcing tighter rules on vapor manufacturers such as graphic warnings, as well limitations on allowable e-liquid flavors.

Last month, Duterte also signed Republic Act 11467 that hiked levies on vapor products. From as low as 1-peso per 1ml of e-liquids, the law increased taxes to P37 per ml, in line with that of conventional cigarettes.

“While we do not agree with most of the provisions (of the law) and how it is being done, we will follow it. But we would also like to understand where (the government) is coming from,” Dulay said.

While consultations are being held with the industry, Dulay regrets the government has essentially made up its mind on how to treat vaping, essentially a dangerous vice that carries the similar risks as tobacco. 

“There should be a prohibition against public use but it should not be total. Restaurants, bars, we would like them to have the prerogative to ban or not ban vaping on their places because sa kanila ‘yan e,” Dulay said.

Vape tax

Since PECIA members are small manufacturers of e-liquid, more than 95% of which are produced locally, he said companies are “preparing for the worst” once RA 11467 is enforced “any time soon.” “We are just waiting for the IRR (implementing rules and regulations),” he said.

The new vaping prohibitions threatens e-cigarette business growth in the Philippines. Euromonitor, a market research firm, projects retail sales of e-cigarettes would grow 24.5% year-on-year to $80.4 billion, still smaller compared to Malaysia’s projected $281.6 billion and Indonesia’s $279.3 billion.

In terms of users, only 0.8% of Filipinos are currently into vaping, smaller than Indonesia’s 2.5% and Vietnam’s 0.2%, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction.

“We have not hiked prices, but right now, we already implemented rules limiting sales to people at least 21 years old,” Dulay said.

“Manufacturers also stopped producing other e-liquid flavors and finished up their inventories of such by December last year,” he added.

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