243 arrested, released for violating vape ban

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The Philippine National Police has arrested 243 people and confiscated over 300 vapes and e-cigarettes in the first week of President Rodrigo Duterte's verbal order banning its use in public. All of them have been released. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 25) — The Philippine National Police has arrested 243 people and confiscated over 300 vapes and e-cigarettes in the first week of President Rodrigo Duterte's verbal order banning its use in public.

PNP Spokesperson PBGen Bernard Banac said Monday that all 243 people have been let go. Police also confiscated 318 vape gadgets and 666 vape juice packs nationwide.

Central Visayas recorded the highest number of violators at 195, while Metro Manila was the lowest with 10 vape users apprehended, Banac added.

The PNP's operations stem from Duterte's order last week, banning the use and importation of vapes, following a confirmed case of vaping-associated lung injury in the country.

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Banac defended the PNP's legal basis for warrantless arrests, saying that Republic Act (RA) 8749 or the Clean Air Act, RA 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act, and Presidential Decree 984 cover users of vape.

"Because 70-75 percent of vape ingredients are nicotine-based, it comes within the purview of RA 9211 as tobacco product and its derivatives," Banac said in a press briefing on Monday.

There are no government regulations in place for vapes and e-cigarettes. In May 2017, Duterte signed an executive order imposing a nationwide smoking ban in public places.

The Department of Health previously tried to regulate these devices — mandating their manufacturers, distributors, importers, exporters and retailers to secure a license to operate — 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.

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Banac said offenders are brought to police stations for blotter and recording before they are released. Arrests have been "peaceful" so far with none of the apprehended resisting arrest.

"Patuloy nating gagawin ang ating mandato habang inaantabayanan natin ang maaaring ipasa na batas na talagang magbibigay ng specific na parusa para sa violators. In the meantime, ang atin lamang magagawa ay sitahin sila at dalhin sa presinto upang magpaliwanag," Banac said.

[Translation: We will continue to carry out our mandate as we await for a possible new law that will provide specific penalties to violators. In the meantime, all we can do is apprehend them and bring them to the police station to explain.]

He added that PNP officials have also visited vape stores to ask them to remind customers to stop using their e-cigarettes in public.