Vaping and the youth: More push needed to reduce appeal

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star
Vaping and the youth: More push needed to reduce appeal
A vape shop owner smokes an e-cigarette at his store in Manila. Monitoring group Action on Smoking and Health Philippines notes the lack of printed warnings on some vape and e-cigarette products.
Edd Gumban

(Second of two parts)

MANILA, Philippines — From November 2021 to February 2022, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Philippines monitored the sales of e-cigarettes across the different online selling platforms.

The group said it wanted to learn more about how the lack of rules governing e-commerce sales of these goods is being exploited.

“According to our observation, majority of the products in the beginning of our monitoring only had 300-800 puffs, but in recent months, most of the newer items have 1000-2500 puffs,” ASH Philippines noted.

It added, “Some items have neither graphic nor text warnings, and those that do only have a text warning, ‘This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance.’”

The group’s research showed that “there has also been an increase in fruity and sweet flavor varieties, including well-known flavors like Yakult, which are typically appealing to the youth, while one product has liquor flavors available such as Coconut Rum and Mojito.

“We have also noticed that there is no information regarding the manufacturer of the product only that majority, if not all, of these products were made in China,” ASH said.

The group also pointed out, “The rise of these products demonstrates how the tobacco industry has taken advantage of the regulatory void surrounding e-commerce sales of e-cigarettes. This is a serious problem because these products are being sold for a very low and accessible price and are advertised as having as many as 85 flavors that appeal to the youth.”

Furthermore, ASH said the items are evolving with fresh features such as LED lights and certain designs depicting well-known characters like Mickey Mouse, Pikachu and Mobile Legends heroes.

“All of this distracts users, and detracts them from the dangerous effect of vaping. It is therefore critical that the government enact strict regulations on the online sale of these products to prevent children from consuming them,” the group stressed.

Dr. Rizalina Gonzalez of the Philippine Pediatric Society advised parents to serve as good examples to their kids by not smoking or vaping or, if engaged in such activities, should commit to quit.

“Parents need to be aware of the different forms of vapes. The most popular now are the pod based vapes, disposable vapes which can just be mistaken as a USB device,” she said.

“If your teen is into vaping, ask when did your child started vaping, who influenced him/her, (or if there are) any stressful situations in school or around him/her which led him/her to vape,” Gonzalez said.

She added, “Counsel calmly the teen/s to quit and explain the health hazards, so parents should be knowledgeable on facts on vaping and, better yet, ask the help of pediatricians or their family doctor to help the teen quit.”

“If the teen is not amenable to professional consult, read together online resources on vaping hazards from reliable websites,” said Gonzalez.

Moreover, she said, “RA11467 of January 2020 could have been a good law since it raised the age of access to 21 years old from 18 years old. This is due to the detrimental effects of nicotine to the still developing prefrontal cortex of the young ones until the age of 25.”

She then suggested that the Food and Drug Administration restrict vape flavors to only tobacco and menthol.

“There is also a need to raise excise tax on e-liquids plus come up with plain packaging with warning to lessen the attractiveness to the young. It should come in kid-proof bottles to avoid accidental ingestion,” said Gonzalez.

At the same time, she stressed that online sales should be monitored or, if possible, should not be allowed since age verification is not truthfully done there.

“Raising the prices on e-liquids and devices will be a good strategy since adolescents are price sensitive,” she noted.

For concerned agencies especially the Department of Health (DOH), Gonzalez said it can make use of effective social media platforms to discourage the use of vapes or e-cigarettes.

“There is also a need for more push or more effort from the DOH regarding its ‘No Smoking and No Vaping’ campaign,” she added.

“I have seen a flyer cover developed by DOH on teen vaping and hope they can upload that in their website for parents and teens and even school teachers so they will have access to right information,” Gonzalez said.

Earlier, the DOH called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to strictly implement the prohibitions and restrictions on the sale and use of vape products, especially after members of the country’s young population were reported to be easily being lured to using e-cigarettes.

“The DOH urges the DTI, as the mandated authority, to strictly enforce the provisions of the vape law, to prohibit access to these harmful products, especially among the youth.”

The health department said it would continue to inform the public on the harmful effects of vaping.

It added that it would promote and establish smoke-free and vape-free environments through social media campaigns.

The agency noted that it has already issued templates to implement the graphic health warnings for vape products and other similar products in order to raise awareness on the ill effects of using them.

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