Senate bill seeks to ban e-cigarette use in schools, gov't offices, PUVs

MANILA, Philippines – A Senate bill seeks to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in schools, government offices, public utility vehicles (PUVs), churches, and hospitals.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III filed Senate Bill 1538, seeking to regulate the use and sale of e-cigarettes following President Rodrigo Duterte's nationwide smoking ban, which so far excludes the device.

The measure aims to prohibit indoor use of the product "in places of worship, hospitals or other healthcare centers, public conveyances, government offices, and educational or recreational facilities exclusively intended for minors."

Use of e-cigarettes in other enclosed places not covered by the bill would be allowed, as long as the owner or manager would post the following statement "in a clear and conspicuous manner: Use of vaporized nicotine products is allowed inside."

The bill also limits the sale and distribution of the product, allowing only those 18 years old and above to buy and use it.

While advertisements would be allowed, the bill seeks to prohibit marketing e-cigarettes to those below 18 years old. The ads also cannot air on television, radio, and cinema.

Promotion of e-cigarettes would be allowed in print media but not in publications whose readers are minors.

First-time offenders would be fined a maximum of P100,000 while two-time offenders, a maximum of P200,000. Third-time violators would be fined a maximum of P1 million or imprisonment of 5 years, or both, at the discretion of the court.

If violators are businesses, their permits and licenses would also be revoked or canceled.

similar bill has been filed in the House of Representatives but it has been pending before the health committee since August 31, 2016.

Regulation needed

Citing studies, Sotto said e-cigarettes should be regulated as these could threaten public health. He also said there have been reports of the devices exploding in the country.

"These are promoted as cigarette alternatives and are designed to mimic both the
form as well as the physical sensation delivered by cigarettes. Some claim in their marketing labels that they are effective smoking cessation tools as well as safer alternatives to smoking. Most of these health claims are yet to be proven by concrete scientific evidence," Sotto said in his explanatory note.

The bill seeks to give the Food and Drug Administration authority to assess any health claim made by manufacturers.

An August 2016 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 said that they "are unlikely to be harmless."

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 the products to consider either prohibiting or regulating them. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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