Eleven former senior officials of the Health and Education departments, in a joint statement, called on the Philippine delegation to the upcoming Tenth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) to stand against e-cigarettes or vapes for the sake of our youth. This comes after the alarming increase in vape-use among Filipino children and young people.
“We call on the Philippine delegation to COP10 of the WHO FCTC in Panama to affirm our commitments under the FCTC, and take the lead in pushing for, supporting, and promoting policies preventing the uptake of all recreational tobacco and nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, to protect present and future generations from the devastating harms of tobacco use and nicotine addiction,” their joint statement said.
Former Health Department officials namely, Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan (DOH Secretary, 1995), Dr. Carmencita Reodica (DOH Secretary, 1996-1998), Dr. Manuel Dayrit (DOH Secretary, 2001-2005), Dr. Esperanza Cabral (DSWD Secretary 2005-2009 and DOH Secretary 2010), Dr. Paulyn Rosell Ubial (DOH Secretary, 2016-2017), Atty. Alexander Padilla (DOH Undersecretary, 2001-2009), Dr. Susan Mercado (DOH Undersecretary, 1998-2001), Dr. Madeleine Valera (DOH Undersecretary, 2012-2013); and former Education Department officials, Bro. Armin Luistro (DepEd Secretary, 2010-2016), and Atty. Alberto Muyot (Deped Undersecretary, 2010-2016) made the urgent appeal as the Philippine delegation participates in the COP10 in Panama.
They emphasized that they have, in the past, warned of the repercussions of watered down provisions of Republic Act No. 11900 or the Vape Regulation Law such as lowering age of access from 21 to 18 years old; delegating regulation to the Department of Trade and Industry rather than the Food and Drug Administration (FDA); and easing restrictions for vape flavors. In fact, Senator Pia Cayetano, at a Senate hearing, has also expressed her frustration over the continued proliferation of vapes among the youth.
The findings of the research done by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Global Tobacco Control revealed that vapes are flagrantly and widely sold and advertised within 100 meters in 78% of schools in the Philippines, despite the prohibition in RA 11900.
The 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey showed a growing use of vapes among Filipino teens with a 14.1% prevalence of vape-use among ages 13-15 (20.9% boys, and 7.5% girls), that translates to millions of young Filipinos.
Moreover, the former officials clamored for the delegates to be truthful about how our weak regulations against vapes has become a serious threat to public health.
“Transparency and accountability of its policy positions at COP 10 should be observed as these will impact domestic and global approaches in tobacco control. The delegation should speak rather than hide, whitewash, or disguise the truth of the serious threat to public health brought about by weak Philippine regulation on e-cigarettes.” the joint statement continued.
The COP10 will be held on February 5 to 10, 2024 in Panama. The COP is composed of signatories to the FCTC and convenes every two years with the objective to discuss international tobacco control policies, including regulations on e-cigarettes or vapes, and how these can be implemented at the national level.
The Convention Secretariat of the FCTC has warned Parties to be vigilant following reports that some “have been approached by the tobacco and other industry representatives to offer travel and technical support, including advisors.” The tobacco industry is expected to influence delegates to the COP 10, just as they have done in the past to weaken, undermine, or stop the adoption of strong regulations on tobacco and nicotine products.
Twice, in 2010 and 2021, during the COP4 and COP9 respectively, the Philippine delegation has unfortunately been merited the Dirty Ashtray award due to statements inclined to favor the tobacco industry and unnecessary interpellations that obstructed the agenda.
“Doing so [observing transparency] will convince other State Parties to adopt and support robust regulations on e-cigarettes. It will also send a strong message to the global community that we are not relinquishing our leadership in working with other State Parties in protecting health policies from the bullying tactics of the tobacco industry that only care for its profits at the expense of the health of the Filipino people,” the former officials concluded.
The joint statement aligns with the WHO’s position on the health dangers of vapes which contain nicotine, a highly addictive chemical, and generate other toxic substances that cause cancer and increase risk of heart and lung disease.
The DOH maintained that vapes are not a safer option contrary to what the tobacco industry wants the public to believe. The Health Department likewise expressed alarm that more and more young people are using vapes.
“Ang panawagan ng ating ahensya, ng ating kalihim na si Dr. Teodoro Herbosa, ay talagang itong vape ay hindi talaga kaaya-aya yan. The way it is being marketed, parang pinapalabas ba na ito ay safer, ito ay better. May mga tanong kasi na hindi naman talaga kasi ito yung ebidensya na nakikita namin sa Department of Health. Maaring ito ay ginagamit ng mga matatanda pero ang nakakabahala talaga is dumadami yung mga bata na gumagamit,” said DOH Asec. Albert Domingo.
Media Consultant, HealthJustice PH
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