Contested vape bill lapses into law

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 26) — The controversial vape bill has lapsed into law during the term of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

The Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act ratified by Congress in January lapsed into law on July 25, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

The vape regulation bill submitted by Congress to the Palace for the President's signature lowered the age of individuals allowed to buy and use e-cigarettes and vapes from 21 to 18.

The Department of Health (DOH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Education, and dozens of medical associations have strongly rallied against its passage because they believe it puts the youth at risk to the harmful effects of vapes and e-cigarettes.

"Nakakalungkot na nag-lapse into law, pero kami ay tuloy-tuloy sa Kagawaran ng Kalusugan para iparating sa kababayan ang masamang dulot ng ating vape at mga tobacco product natin," DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

[Translation: It is saddening that it lapsed into law, but we in the Department of Health will continue to inform the public about the dangers of vape and tobacco products.]

Former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III previously quashed claims that vapes and e-cigarettes are a good way to break one's addiction to cigarettes. He said they often serve the opposite purpose, as they introduce the person to more vices like alcohol and marijuana use.

Health experts are also concerned about the transfer of regulatory functions on these products from the FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry.

In a privilege speech before fellow lawmakers, Senator Pia Cayetano, a vocal critic of the bill, expressed disappointment over the development. She said she had expected the measure to be vetoed by Marcos after he repeatedly stressed during his State of the Nation Address on Monday the vital role of science in his administration's programs.

"Putting at risk the health of our people and of future generations through this law will haunt our collective conscience down the road," the senator said. "When we wake up to a generation addicted to vapes, that's on the 18th Congress that passed the vape bill, and on this administration that allowed it to pass."

Cayetano also hit the apparent delay in the transmission of the bill to Malacañang. She said it took five months for Congress officials to submit the measure to the Office of the President.

"Five months, barely three days, just because the weekend na matatapos ang term ni President (Rodrigo) Duterte, saka pinadala… Ano kaya ang inantay nila? Is it because nabalitaan nila na balak i-veto ni Presidente?" she said, arguing there are talks going around that Duterte planned to reject the proposed law.

[Translation: The bill was transmitted after five months, barely three days into or just the weekend before President Duterte's term ended. What were they waiting for? Is it because they heard that the President plans to veto the bill?]

Public interest law group ImagineLaw also called the lapsing of the bill into law a "betrayal of public health" and a "regrettable development" following Marcos' promise for the country to build back better.

"During a global pandemic that attacks the lungs, building back better means protecting our health through better public health policies. We hope that the President will ensure that the vape bill will be implemented with our health in mind, not the commercial interests of those that pushed for its passage," ImagineLaw Executive Director Atty. Sophia San Luis said.

Pia Cayetano and brother Senator Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said they are ready to question the validity of the bill before the Supreme Court.