DOH mulls regulation on use of vapes, e-cigs

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) eyes regulate the use of vaporizers (vapes) and electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) which are not covered by the newly-signed Executive Order (EO) No. 26 which enforces a smoking ban in public places.

Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Ubial on Monday said the agency and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are now studying the possibility of issuing an order that will regulate use of these products which are used as “tobacco cigarette replacement”.

“We will just make a separate issuance, like an FDA order,” said Ubial when asked why vapes and e-cigarettes are not included in the executive order signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last May 16.

Ubial added the EO does not cover the said devices as they are not considered tobacco products as defined in Republic Act No 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003.

“It might complicate the EO and subject it to (legal) challenge as they are not in RA 9211,” the Health Chief further said.

Meanwhile, the official refused to give full details on the possible regulation for e-cigarettes and vapes, saying it is still subject to further studies.

In the past, the FDA had already issued Advisory No. 2013-008, wherein the public is advised not to use e-cigarettes as its presence is opposed to the goal to stop cigarette smoking and tobacco use.

According to DOH Spokesperson Dr. Eric Tayag, the possible reason for non-inclusion of vape in the EO was probably in terms of the argument that it only produces vaport and not tobacco smoke.

A vaporizer is device that can vaporize to the level of near incineration/combustion different substances, such as tobacco leaves.

On the other hand, the e-cigarette is made of plastic and metal device that heat a liquid nicotine solution (e-juice) in a disposable cartridge while creating a tiny light on the tip even glows like a real cigarette and produces a vapor that stimulates the act of smoking.

Several health advocates lauded the signing of the EO, citing the move is a manifestation of strong political will and genuine concern of saving the Filipinos who are non-smokers by providing a smoke-free environment for them.

Under the EO, smoking will be banned in all public places including schools; work places; government facilities; establishments that provide food and drinks, accommodations, and professional services; outdoor spaces like playgrounds, sport centers, church grounds, hospitals, transportation terminals, markets, parks, resorts, waiting areas, walkways and sidewalks; elevators and stairwells; locations where fire hazards present; and public transportation.

The EO also requires every establishment to have designated smoking areas (DSAs) or instead place graphics signs emphasizing they are not smoking areas so they will be required to have a DSA.

The DSA will be an enclosed area wherein non-smokers will not be allowed, meaning, only the smokers will be allowed to enter there so that non-smokers will not inhale the smokes emitted by smokers.

This should be placed outside the establishments to ensure that the establishment and the public going there are protected from cigarette smokes harmful effects.

Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the EO will be formulated by a group tasked by DOH that will clarify some salients points specified there.

The formulation of the order’s IRR is expected to happen after 60 days.

The DOH expects that IRR will also decide on some concerns also of those establishments with wide or huge malls and tall buildings possible problems in terms of having only one specified DSA.

“The group that will formulate the IRR can clarify if the big malls or those with buildings as tall as 28th floors can have additional numbers of DSAs,” said Dr. Tayag.

Tayag however said that the idea of having one DSA for every establishment was seen as a way that will discourage smokers and even future smokers to realize that there is difficulty and inconvenience to keep on smoking and instead choose to quit.

He further added that quitting smoking can lead to reduction of smoking-related illnesses such as heart attack, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, emphysema, severe asthma attacks, etc. Leilani Junio/