DOH, doctors urge Duterte: Veto vape bill

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
DOH, doctors urge Duterte: Veto vape bill
“I am concerned with this vape bill because our end goal is that it will not be enacted into law,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum yesterday.
The STAR / Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) remains hopeful that before stepping down from office on June 30, President Duterte will veto Senate Bill 2239 or the Vape Regulation Bill.

“I am concerned with this vape bill because our end goal is that it will not be enacted into law,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum yesterday.

Based on the latest information that he got, Duque said Congress has yet to submit the bill to the Office of the President (OP).

“We will just have to wait what happens next, but I doubt that the President will even sign that bill,” he added.

The outgoing health chief disclosed that he is in constant communication with the OP and he remains hopeful that the proposed measure will not be enacted into law.

An alliance of vape consumers and retailers has been urging Duterte to sign the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which they claimed would generate billions in taxes for the government.

The group also claimed that vaping would help smokers quit using the more harmful tobacco.

Duque, however, debunked the vapers’ alliance’s claim, saying it will not stand the scrutiny of science.

Citing studies abroad, he said vape users are at greater risk of acquiring severe COVID-19 and much more likely to get into traditional smoking as well as other vices.

With barely three weeks before the next administration takes over, health professionals from 59 medical organizations have reiterated their call to Duterte to veto SB 2239.

At a press briefing yesterday, former Philippine Medical Association president Minerva Calimag said they hope that Duterte will veto the bill because it undermines his efforts “to protect Filipinos, especially the youth, from the harm of tobacco.”

“Long-term use of adulterated and even unadulterated electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems produce aerosols that increase risk of lung cancer and chronic lung ailments,” Calimag added.

She also warned that nicotine causes damage to the heart, among others.

“What is alarming is sometimes, it takes time for the effects of vaping to manifest, but we are already seeing patients who are suffering from these effects,” she said.

The bill was ratified by Congress’ bicameral conference committee last Jan. 25. After 150 days, however, it has yet to be transmitted to the OP.

Former Philippine Society of General Internal Medicine president Antonio Dans said they suspect that this is a delaying tactic by the tobacco industry to ensure that the bill is transmitted before the end of Duterte’s term.

Dans added that they hope Duterte will not allow the bill to lapse into law by default by not vetoing it.

Dans also called on some doctors who are peddling misinformation to favor the tobacco industry.

“It is not true that the vape bill will not make vapes available to smokers because it’s already available,” he said.

The expert clarified that it is also not true that they are seeking to ban vaping, but what they are seeking is “regulation and implementation of existing laws” on cigarette-smoking and vaping.

“It is also not true that it causes harm reduction. It causes harm introduction, especially to the young,” he said. – Sheila Crisostomo

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