DOH to support total ban on e-cigarettes

MANILA — Should there be a measure filed in Congress calling for a total ban on the use of electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) would definitely support it.

DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Domingo said the use of vaping products does not make a lower-risk substitute to cigarettes because it still contains nicotine, which poses health risks.

“If the DOH had its way, we would go for an outright ban and I think there is a possible legislation that will be proposed in the Senate and maybe in the House (of Representatives) and we will support it,” Domingo said in a Palace briefing on Wednesday.

He said several countries have already decided to either regulate or ban the use of e-cigarettes.

He was, however, mum on which lawmaker is drafting the bill.

“I know at least one senator who’s preparing a draft bill and if it is forwarded to the Senate, we will support it,” Domingo said.

“Dito sa atin right now, marami nang gumagamit, marami nang nagnenegosyo (Here in the Philippines, many are using it, many are making a business out of it). It’s there. So regulation would be the softer way. But for health outcomes, an outright ban would be the best,” he added.

Domingo also welcomed the Committee on Ways and Means report of Senator Pia Cayetano with the proposal to tax e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products (HTPS), including vape, at the same rate as conventional tobacco products.

“Gusto po natin iyong heated tobacco products equal ang tax niyan sa regular na sigarilyo dahil wala naman pong pagkakaiba ang harm nito, ke sinisindihan mo siya, ke hindi (We want the taxes on heated tobacco products to be equal with the taxes on cigarettes because there is no difference in terms of harmful effects, whether they are lighted or not),” he said.

Under Republic Act 11346 or the Sin Tax package 2 plus A, the excise tax on tobacco products, including cigarettes, will increase by PHP45 per pack effective Jan. 1, 2020. It will also raise excise tax on cigarettes to PHP50 per pack in 2021, PHP55 in 2022, and PHP60 in 2023.

The proposal to make taxes on e-cigarettes and HTPs at par with conventional tobacco products is contained in Sin Tax package 2 plus B.

Raising tax on tobacco products will not only prevent people from acquiring smoking-related diseases, it will also help fund the government’s Universal Health Care (HC) Law, upgrade medical facilities, train doctors and nurses, and scale up non-communicable disease prevention services among others, Domingo said.

Salty products

Domingo bared that the DOH is also considering to propose additional tax on salty products, such as processed food, canned goods, and instant noodles which may cause non-communicable diseases.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque bared this suggestion during the launch of the Philippine Non-Communicable Diseases Investment Case Report on Tuesday.

Aside from lowering health risks, Domingo said raising taxes on salty products could also encourage companies to consciously “reformulate” their products to become healthier.

“I think it was brought up as a suggestion kasi (because) we have now taxes on, of course, alcohol and tobacco and then ‘yung (those) sugar-sweetened beverages,” he said.

”There’s nothing concrete right now but it’s something the Department of Health is studying,” he added.

Former Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) board member and health reform advocate Anthony Leachon emphasized the need for both education and legislation to prevent non-communicable diseases in the country.

“Public health education is not effective globally kasi (because) you need legislation because of ineptitude,” Leachon said, noting how Filipinos still consume harmful products despite knowing of their health risks.

“Hopefully, with coercion and legislation, we can shape the health environment of the country,” he added. Azer Parrocha / PNA –