Protecting children must remain the top priority in the enforcement of Republic Act No. 11900 or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act as we approach the first year since it passed into law, appealed the HealthJustice, a non-government organization committed to tobacco control.
HealthJustice emphasized further that the government’s implementing agencies, led by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), should strive to triple their efforts at shielding the youth from accessing electronic cigarettes or vapes by conducting relentless intensified operations against erring vape shops and vendors.
“What we are seeing now is the widespread use of these harmful products among minors and the youth. This is very alarming for it means easy access of these products. Our government regulators, especially the DTI, should enhance their enforcement efforts to execute the access restrictions of the law and stop this vaping and nicotine epidemic,” said Atty. Benedict Nisperos, legal consultant of HealthJustice.
HealthJustice’ call on government regulators to prioritize the safety of the youth finds support from the City Government of Baguio, which commits to assist the national government in enforcing RA 11900. Aside from the DTI, local government units play an important role in the implementation of RA 11900.
“As part of Mayor Benjamin Magalong’s move on good governance, the Smoke Free City Task force are committed to work closely with the national government to implement RA 11900. We are steadfast at monitoring vape shops and owners in our city and keeping an eye out against violators within our jurisdiction. We do not want to endanger our youth and expose them to these products. Anyone in blatant violation of the Vape Law, we will hold accountable,” said Dr. Donnabel Panes of the Baguio City Anti-Smoking Task Force.
Moreover, HealthJustice believes there is a need to amend the law to ensure that minors and youth are protected from these highly addicting but toxic products.
“Given the proliferation of use among our youth of these products, it is clear that the law is inadequate to provide the needed protection from the hazards of these tobacco products. We need to amend the law to make it stricter. Bring back the higher age restriction to 21 years old from 18 years old, impose strict flavor bans, ban online sales and marketing, reduce nicotine
content from 65mg/ml to the dose public health authorities recommended, and give the jurisdiction over these harmful products to FDA,” argued Nisperos.
Nisperos also called for the DTI to expand partnerships as well as coordinate with and empower local government units as the battleground to prevent minors from using these products.
This comes after the group expressed concern over vape products with assorted flavors, eye- catching packaging, and advertisements all designed to entice minors. Also, retailers continue to sell at points where children converge and aggressively sell online through social media and shopping platforms.
Based on the 2019 Global Youth Tobacco Survey, 14.1 percent of Filipino minors age 13-15 “currently used electronic cigarettes.” Boys accounted for 20.9 percent of the figure, and girls 7.5 percent.
RA 11900 lapsed into law on July 25, 2022 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) were crafted in December of the same year. It covers the trade of e-cigarettes or vapes, heated tobacco products (HTPs), as well as novel tobacco products.
Under the law, these products are prohibited from being sold to minors aged 17 and below. The law also bans using marketing strategies and packaging designs that appeal to the youth. This includes phasing out fruity or candy-flavored vape juices. Sale of these products are also not allowed within 100 meters from places where minors frequent.
As of June 2023, the DTI has reported to have served Notices of Violation (NOVs) to 230 physical stores following inspections. Seized items were more than 1,500 vape products with a total value of P4.55 million. Meanwhile, more than 31,300 online stores were found to be non-compliant. However, only 46 were issued NOVs and the rest were either closed or could not be located.
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