Health dept. wants total ban on e-cigarettes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 30) – The Department of Health (DOH) is pushing for a total ban on potentially deadly electronic cigarettes.

“If the DOH had its way, we would push for an outright ban of e-cigarettes,” Health Undersecretary Rolando Domingo said in a Malacañang briefing on Wednesday, as he raised the alarm on the rising number of young Filipinos hooked to vaping.

"Kami po ay nababahala sa DOH. May mga kabataan, pati sa sa elementarya pa lamang, gumagamit na sila ng vape at hindi nila naiisip na masama ito dahil nakakaengganyo,” he added.

[Translation: We, at DOH, are concerned. There are young people – including elementary students – who are using vape and they are not even aware of its ill effects on health because of how enticing it is.]

Domingo reiterated the agency's earlier position that vape is not a safe alternative for traditional cigarette, contrary to advertisements.

Ang disenyo ng vape ay hindi para sa mga bata at ang mga ganitong produkto hindi nakakabuting alternatibo sa normal na sigarilyo," he said.

[Translation: Vape is not designed for young people and products like this are not a good alternative for normal cigarettes.]

Domingo said if Congress has the intention to turn the proposed ban into a written policy, then the DOH will support it. He then noted that a senator, whom he did not name, is drafting a bill about the proposal..

“And I think there is a possible legislation that will be proposed at the Senate and maybe [at] the House [of Representatives],” Domingo shared. “There is one senator who is drafting a bill and if passed in the Senate, we will support it,” he added.

Asked for a reaction with regard to the losses that the DOH may incur in case the country bans the use and sale of the e-cigarettes, Domingo responded by saying that the government would save more as curing smoking-related illnesses is more expensive. He said that the DOH gets around P70 billion from revenues on tobacco sin taxes while about P200 billion is spent on treatment.

“Yung sa mga sin taxes actually – sa tobacco, sa alcohol, yung nakukuha natin na buwis dito mas maliit kaysa sa ginagastos natin para gamutin ang mga nagkakasakit,” Domingo said.

[Translation: The sin taxes actually – in tobacco, alcohol – the money we get there is smaller compared to the money we spend to treat patients.]

He explained the government could regulate or ban vaping. He said that since the number of people who use e-cigarettes are increasing, the “softer” way is to regulate it. But to improve health outcomes, banning would be the “best” option.

The Food and Drug Administration and DOH have released an administrative order early this year, banning smoking e-cigarettes in public places. They have also begun registering e-cigarette products and sellers last month, Domingo noted.

However, two companies sued them and they received a temporary injunction from courts in Pasig and Manila. This means that regulation has been temporarily put on hold.

Vaping-related injuries reported in PH

The DOH has received cases of vaping-related illnesses from its hospitals, Domingo said.

“We already have diagnosed cases,” Domingo noted, adding that they will be reported to the agency’s regional offices for validation purposes.

Domingo said the DOH hopes to present these vaping-related injuries to the public in the next couple of weeks.

Domingo said that the criterion called the International Classification of Diseases 10 code U07.0, for making a diagnosis on vaping-related disease has only been released by the World Health Organization two weeks ago, and added that DOH only started asking hospitals to start reporting on the cases last week.

The official then asked all DOH-accredited medical facilities to report cases believed to be due to smoking e-cigarettes.

Domingo also said the Health department has been talking to medical schools and medical specialties, so they could include asking if a patient, who manifested complained about having a difficulty in breathing, has used vape within the last 90 days, while taking their medical history.