‘Vapedemic’ killing tobacco industry’

Jasper Emmanuel Arcalas - The Philippine Star
�Vapedemic� killing tobacco industry�
A display of disposable vape electronic cigarettes are seen in a shop in Liverpool, north-west England, on July 15, 2023.
AFP / Paul Ellis

MANILA, Philippines — The proliferation of illegal, disposable vapes is reportedly killing the local tobacco industry as it reduces demand for tobacco-based products, leaving farmers with a shrinking market base.

Two of the country’s biggest tobacco farmers’ groups – the Philippine Tobacco Growers Association (PTGA) and the National Federation of Tobacco Farmers’ Associations and Cooperatives (NAFTAC) – issued a joint statement urging the government to address the sale of illegal and disposable vapes in the country.

The groups argued that the spread of illegal vapes worsened the tobacco industry’s suffering from the perennial trade of illicit cigarettes, further reducing the demand of domestic manufacturers for locally produced tobacco leaves.

PTGA president Saturnino Distor pointed out that reduced demand for legal, tax-paid locally produced cigarettes would mean lower financial support for the tobacco industry from local government units that utilize the excise taxes collected on tobacco products.

The groups urged the government to strictly enforce existing laws and regulations aimed at curbing the sale of illegal vape products to protect some 2.2 million Filipinos who depend on the tobacco industry.

“Unlike heated tobacco sticks, vapes do not contain dried tobacco leaves and have no direct benefit to tobacco farmers. Illegal vapes only benefit smugglers and crooked retailers since they don’t even pay taxes,” Distor said recently.

“We need the help of the government to stop this ‘vapedemic’ and save the local tobacco industry,” Distor added.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue reported earlier that tobacco excise tax declined by 16 percent last year to P134.87 billion from P160.55 billion due to higher vape consumption and illicit cigarette trade.

The groups said tobacco farmers supported Republic Act 11900 or the Vape Law that regulated the sale of cigarette alternatives in the market such as vapes.

However, NAFTAC chairman Bernard Vicente said the same law is “now being abused by unscrupulous businessmen who are blatantly smuggling and distributing illegal vapes.”

Under existing laws, a portion of the total excise taxes collected on tobacco products goes to tobacco-producing provinces and is meant to provide support to farmers in the form of farm-to-market roads, planting pits and machinery, among others.

Meanwhile, the National Tobacco Administration is seeing a sustained recovery in domestic tobacco production driven by higher prices and stiff competition among local manufacturers for supply.

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