public health

Health experts urge stricter rules against e-cigarettes, vaping

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Health experts urge stricter rules against e-cigarettes, vaping

A person vapes in London, Britain, April 16, 2024.

REUTERS/Toby Melville

Doctors notice rise of cases among young people of EVALI, or E-Cigarette, Vaping Product, Use Lung Injury, a disease contracted from using e-cigarettes and vape pens

MANILA, Philippines – Three health experts warned that electronic cigarettes and vape pens possibly posed more danger than the usual cigarette sticks, specially now that there is an aggressive marketing push to lure young people to the habit.

In a roundtable forum of journalists, public health experts, and young leaders, last April 11, health advocates warned that continued use of e-cigarettes and vaping pens could lead to the development relatively new lung disease that could start at a young age. They warned of irreversible damage to the lungs, which may need lung transplant surgery.

The health experts were Dr. Maricar Limpin, chair of the steering committee at Philippine Coalition on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases; Dr. Riz Gonzales, chair of the tobacco control advocacy group of the Philippine Pediatric Society; and Au Quilala, advocacy and partnerships manager, Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development.

Cigarette smoking and vaping were compared in the forum.

Diseases associated with traditional smoking like lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (CPD), start at age 40 and up. For smokers of e-cigarette and vape pens, they could develop even during their teenage years the lung disease called, EVALI, or E-Cigarette, Vaping Product, Use Lung Injury.

EVALI symptoms are: shortness of breath; cough; chest pain; fever and chills; diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain; rapid heartbeat; and rapid and shallow breathing.

The forum hosted by Vital Undustries, an NGO, also tackled the pressing issues on the aggressive sale and marketing promotion of e-cigarettes and vape products to the youth.

A cause of concern, they said, was a trend to attract young people to vapes and e-cigarettes by positioning these “cool” to use.

Gonzales said it was wrong for manufacturers to claim that vaping was risk-free and as a good alternative to smoking. “It’s not true,” said said, noting the aggressive marketing of vape producers.

Because of the disruption brought about by the pandemic, there is no available data on deaths and injuries arising from use of vaping products in the Philippines. But doctors noticed, a sudden rise of EVALI cases because of increased vape activity.

Shortly before the outbreak of the global pandemic, or sometime in November, 2019, the Department of Health reported the first EVALI case in the country – a 16-year old girl from the Visayas, who was using both cigarettes and vape. In 2020, or shortly before the pandemic, the US had more than 3,000 reported EVALI cases with 66 deaths.

Quilala said there was a need to revisit existing public policies on vaping, which include the possible return to 21 years from the current 18 years the legal age to vape and the mandate for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), to regulate vaping in the country. She also called for stricter implementation of the vaping laws and regulations.

“According to the latest Global Youth Tobacco Survey, one out of every seven Filipino youth aged 13-15 is now using vapes. This alarming trend is not a coincidence but a result of the tobacco industry’s calculated marketing tactics targeting the youth,” said Limpin.

“We’ll not sit idly by and turn a blind eye to the predatory practices of this industry. By allowing the Philippines to position itself as a manufacturing hub, we are essentially paving the way for an EVALI epidemic,” Limpin said.

Limpin said that the Philippines has at least seven recorded EVALI cases, but the number could go up suddenly as many young people develop addiction to the substances and chemicals used in vaping products. –

The three discussants agreed on the perceived existence of a strong pro-vaping lobby to favor the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products. They also agreed to the perception that they have been employing “trickery” and “treachery” to influence the policymakers.

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