To usher in 2024, the government should vow, as their New Year’s resolution, to beef up crackdown on e-cigarettes, also called vapes, for the sake of our children’s health, urged HealthJustice Philippines, a non-government organization with a core advocacy on tobacco control and health promotion.
HealthJustice called on the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to amplify their efforts to get rid of vapes enticing young people that continue to proliferate on the streets despite our regulations. The Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Education (DepEd) should also help educate our youth that vapes are not a safe alternative nor is it an effective means to quit smoking cigarettes, HealthJustice added.
“We are alarmed that vapes are sold and used just anywhere. They remain easily accessible to children. Our government should commit into the New Year to heighten monitoring and strengthen enforcement of our laws that prohibit sale and promotion of vapes to children,” said Atty. Benedict Nisperos, legal consultant of HealthJustice.
HealthJustice and its partner, the Child Rights Network (CRN), also reiterated the World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent demand for countries to take urgent action to control e-cigarettes or vapes in order to minimize harms to children’s health. HealthJustice echoed WHO’s concern that “e-cigarettes have been allowed on the open market and aggressively marketed to young people.”
“Even just a brief exposure to vape advertisements can lure young people to use vapes. We expect the government to strengthen its efforts this coming year to protect our children from falling prey to the deceptive tactics of tobacco and vape companies that promote vapes through online platforms utilizing social media influencers, animated characters, various flavors, and designs that appeal to the youth, ” said Mr. Rom Dongeto, Convenor of the Child Rights Network and Executive Director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
Under the Vape Law (Republic Act No. 11900), using vapes is prohibited in schools and recreational facilities where minors frequent. Sale of vape to minors aged 17 and below is also prohibited, as well as the sale and marketing of vapes within 100 meters of schools. The Vape Law also bans using marketing strategies and packaging designs that appeal to the youth, hence, fruity or candy-flavored vape juices must be phased-out.
In the Philippines e-cigarette or vape use prevalence among teens aged 13-15 is 14.1% (20.9% boys, and 7.5% girls), based on the last Global Youth Tobacco Survey in 2019.
According to the WHO, vapes contain nicotine that are highly addictive and those who use it are three times more likely to smoke cigarettes later in life. More importantly, using vapes (1) generates toxic substances, some of which cause cancer and increase risk of heart and lung disease; (2) impacts brain development of young people that leads to learning disorders; (3) affects development of a fetus in pregnant women; and (4) poses risk to bystanders who inhale seconhand aerosols.
Patricia Loren M. Reyes
Project Coordinator for Communications, HealthJustice