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E-cigarettes Regulation Bill: Vaping To Have Designated Areas; People 18 And Above May Purchase; Health Warnings Required

E-cigarettes Regulation Bill: Vaping To Have Designated Areas; People 18 And Above May Purchase; Health Warnings Required
A store owner puffs inside his vape shop in Quezon City on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. President Duterte has ordered the arrest of individuals vaping in public places. The store owner claims that cigarettes make him feel ill compared to vape. Photo by Michael Varcas, The Philippine STAR

The bill seeking to regulate the manufacture, sale and use of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) has hurdled the committee level in the House of Representatives.

The joint committees on trade and industry and health approved the substitute bill for the proposed “Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery System Regulation Act of 2020” during a virtual hearing on Thursday, Aug. 27.

Voting 88-10 with two abstentions, the panel declared as a matter of policy the need for the state to protect and promote the right to health of the people and address the issue of e-cigarettes and HTPs urgently and effectively.

It also stressed the need to instill health consciousness among the citizens “given that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the country.”

“The sheer number of those affected by smoking combustible cigarettes raises grave concern,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, proponent of the measure, said.

Section 6 of the bill provides that the minimum allowable age for the purchase, sale and use of e-cigarettes and HTPs shall be 18 years old. Retailers shall verify the age of all buyers by requiring the presentation of any valid government-issued identification card exhibiting the buyer’s photograph and age or date of birth.

All manufacturers, importers and distributors of these products are required to place health warnings on the principal display surface with the text: “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance. It is not recommended for use by non-smokers” or “This product contains nicotine which is a highly addictive substance.”

They must also “display other applicable graphic health warnings to be prescribed” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Health in the implementing rules and regulations once the bill becomes a law.

The sale or distribution of these products within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, playground or other facility frequented by minors shall be prohibited.

On product communication restrictions, Section 11 provides that advertisements shall be allowed in retail establishments, through direct marketing, and on the internet. These shall not be aimed at or particularly appeal to persons under 18 years of age.

The bill also states that these advertisements should not undermine quit-smoking messages and should not encourage non-tobacco and non-nicotine users to use e-cigarettes and HTPs. These should not contain any information that is untrue in particular with regard to product characteristics, health effects, risks or emissions.

On public use, Section 14 states that the use of e-cigarettes and HTPs shall be prohibited in all enclosed public places except in designated vaping areas or DVAs. The indoor use of these products is absolutely prohibited in schools, hospitals, government offices, and facilities intended particularly for minors.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), in consultation with the FDA, has been tasked to set standards for market entry notification and standards on flavors and additives used in the manufacture of e-liquids and refills, as well as on electronic components of e-cigarettes.

For HTPs, the DTI, in consultation with the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco (IAC-Tobacco) created by virtue of Republic Act No. 9211, shall set standards on HTPs with regard to consumables and the electronic components.

Existing industries and businesses affected by the implementation of the proposed Act shall be given an 18-month transitory period from the effectivity of the implementing rules and regulations to comply with the requirements.

Rodriguez said on top of public health concerns, regulation needs to balance factors such as revenue generation, trade and commerce, job creation, protection of minors and non-smokers, public safety against sub-standard products, and the interest of tobacco farmers and other stakeholders.