Duterte bans use, importation of vapes

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) — President Rodrigo Duterte issued a verbal order to ban the use and importation of vapes, following the first confirmed report of electronic cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI) in the country.

Duterte said he is banning vapes because it is “toxic” and has not been approved the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“They're just killing people for money. I will ban it because it is not good because it is contrary to public safety,” Duterte told reporters during a late night press briefing on Tuesday.

He also ordered the arrest of people who use vapes.

“You cannot do it inside a room. That's full of s***. You contaminate people na hindi pa panahon mamatay [whose time to die has not come,]” he said.

Duterte said a written executive order on the vape ban is forthcoming, but he claimed that he does not need one for the ban to take effect.

The Health department has said that it backs an outright ban on vaping and e-cigarettes because its advertised safety and efficacy as a substitute to cigarettes has not yet been scientifically proven.

It added that these devices contain nicotine, ultra-fine particles, carcinogens, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds.

Longtime presidential aide-turned-Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has said that he will suggest that Duterte issue an executive order to regulate the manufacture, distribution, sale, and use of all kinds of e-cigarettes, pending a new law that would impose government control over these devices.

There are no government regulations in place for vapes and e-cigarettes.

The Health department previously tried to regulate these devices — mandating their manufacturers, distributors, importers, exporters and retailers to secure a license to operate from the FDA — but this was temporarily stopped by a Pasig court, on the petition of a group composed of the local e-cigarette industry and vape consumers.

Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Bernadette Herrera said Saturday she will file a bill in the House of Representatives next week that will seek to finally regulate the sale of vapes.

Herrera said her bill will ban the sale of vapes to minors, as well as all vape flavors except tobacco and menthol.

A 16-year-old girl is the first reported case of EVALI in the country. She had been using e-cigarettes for six months alongside regular cigarettes before being hospitalized last October 21 due to a severe shortness of breath. She required supplemental oxygen and had to be admitted to the intensive care unit.

A law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte in July had placed a ₱10 tax for every 10 milliliters of vaping liquids. A proposed law which Duterte certified as urgent, also seeks to hike this tax further.

Duterte’s verbal orders

Duterte has been known to make policy moves without written orders.

In July, Duterte ordered a stop to all gaming operations, licenses and franchises of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) on suspicion of “massive corruption involving all.”

Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who is a lawyer, told CNN Philippines in July that the order is illegal and unconstitutional as it deprives franchise holders and operators of their right to due process.

Duterte lifted the suspension of lotto operations and eventually small-town lottery operations, but not after 30,000 PCSO gaming outlets were closed, leaving thousands of workers uncertain about their work prospects.

Duterte made another verbal order in September for the police and the military to arrest the 1,914 people who were freed through the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) policy after 15 days and eventually raised a ₱1 million bounty for their capture.

Ex-prisoners, out of fear for their lives, surrendered in droves, exceeding the 1,914 count of heinous crime convicts who were released through the GCTA.