Draft EO on smoking ban includes e-cigarettes

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is still waiting for President Rodrigo Duterte to sign the draft executive order (EO) on a nationwide smoking ban in all public places that also covers electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

"'Di namin alam kung isasama sa final version (We don’t know if it will be included in the final version)," Health Spokesperson Eric Tayag told Rappler on Thursday, November 17, referring to the version the President will approve.

The health department is concerned with data today that suggests e-cigarettes – historically known as smoking cessation aid – have become a "gateway to conventional smoking"

"These are the possible scenarios: for those who want to quit smoking, e-cigarette is the alternative. Or, younger people initiate smoking via e-cigarette – the gateway to conventional smoking. Or, they use both [traditional cigarette and e-cigarette]," Tayag said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He said many have reacted to the health department's decision to include e-cigarettes in the proposed smoking ban, but he stressed that health officials are not stopping the product's manufacture in the country.

"All we're saying is, [before you] buy it, think twice, 3 times, 4 times. [It is our] obligation to tell you of [its] harmful effects," he added. 

While the DOH has yet to find out the prevalence of e-cigarette smoking in the Philippines, Tayag pointed out how the use of e-cigarette in the country has evolved through the years.

He lamented about how this product which used to be sold exclusively in malls can now be purchased everywhere – even on the Internet, where regulation is difficult.

The draft EO, which is patterned after a Davao City ordinance, has two key provisions: 

The health department earlier said it is ready to come out with implementing rules and regulations as soon as the President signs the EO.

WHO on e-cigarettes

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report on e-cigarettes or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS/ENNDS) said scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of these devices as a smoking cessation aid "is scant and of low certainty, making it difficult to draw credible inferences."

While it is likely that both are "less toxic than cigarette smoke," the WHO report that they "are unlikely to be harmless."

"Long-term use is expected to increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and possibly cardiovascular disease as well as some other diseases associated with smoking. The magnitude of these risks is likely to be smaller than from tobacco smoke, although there is not enough research to quantify the relative risk of ENDS/ENNDS over combustible products," it said.

The WHO concluded: "Therefore, no specific figure about how much 'safer' the use of these products is compared to smoking can be given any scientific credibility at this time."

These observations are based mostly on the levels and number of toxicants produced during the "typical use of unadulterated ENDS/ENNDS made with pharmaceutical-grade ingredients."

A decision adopted during the recent 7th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in India invited Parties that have not yet banned the importation, sale, and distribution of ENDS/ENNDS to consider either prohibiting or regulating such products. – Rappler.com

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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