Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday welcomed the Department of Education’s (DepEd) appeal for President Rodrigo Duterte to veto the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act, commonly known as the “Vape Bill,” saying that the government can come up with a better bill that will not endanger the health of its citizens – especially that of the youth.
“Ang problema, from 21 years old, pwede na ngayon ang 18 years old sa bill na ‘to,” Cayetano said in a media interview on March 21, 2022, pointing to a provision in the House version of the bill that lowers the minimum age requirement for vape users from 21 to 18 years old.
(The problem is that from 21 years old, they lowered the age requirement to 18 years old.)
Cayetano’s comment came after DepEd released a statement on Thursday urging Duterte to veto the Vape Bill.
“So isipin mo kung isa kang teacher…nahuli mong nagve-vape o nag-e-cigarettes [y’ung estudyante], eh kung sagutin ka, ‘Eh ma’am sabi ng mga congressman at senador pwede na dyesiotso anyos, bakit mo kami pinagbabawalan?’” the former Speaker said, adding that even senior high school students would be able to buy the products easily.
(If you were a teacher who caught a student vaping, the student could justify the act by saying that even the Congress and the Senate allowed 18-year-olds to use e-cigarettes.)
Cayetano said based on DepEd data, at least 870,000 students in the basic education sector for school year 2020-2021 are 18 years old, while close to 1.1 million senior high school students are 18 to 20 years old.
According to DepEd, this is the number of young learners to whom vape companies can legally market the harmful products once the bill becomes law.
“As a government institution championing young Filipinos’ well-being, we are taking a stand against the so-called ‘anti-health’ vape bill, which will weaken existing law and the executive order against Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) or Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENNDS) commonly known as e-cigarettes or ‘vapes,’” DepEd said.
“We can come up with a better bill,” Cayetano said, concurring with DepEd’s statement.
More addictive than cigarettes
Cayetano further stressed the health-related concerns of the bill, saying It is “an established fact that nicotine is an addictive substance.”
“Ang ginawa po sa vape, sinasabi kasi this is less unhealthy than cigarettes so dapat lumipat sa vape at tsaka sa e-cigarettes…[It] affects the health talaga, iba’t ibang klaseng sakit ang dulot nito,” Cayetano said.
(What the bill did was that it framed e-cigarettes as less unhealthy when in reality it affects the health of users exposing them to various illnesses.)
According to the Department of Health (DOH), vape products are “harmful and not risk-free.”
“Vape liquids and its emission contain chemicals such as nicotine, propylene glycol, carbonyls, and carbon monoxide that are either addictive, toxic or can cause cancer. Additionally, studies have shown vape use increases the risk of using other known addictive substances such as cigarette use, alcoholism and even marijuana use,” it said.
Cayetano said this means young people will be exposed to an even worse vice than cigarettes, especially since they are being made to believe that vape is safer.
“Konsensya naman natin na kapag na-approve ito, and then magkasakit ang mga tao, eh it was because even government promoted it,” he said.
(If people fall ill because of vape, it would be the government’s burden when, ironically, they were the ones who promoted it in the first place.)
From public health concern to money-making endeavor
In his statement on Monday, Cayetano condemned another provision in the bill that turns the issue of nicotine abuse from a public health concern to “a money-making endeavor for the government.”
“We want to make sure na kahit anong bilhin mo sa tindahan, whether ‘yan ay pagkain o whether ‘yan gamot, ay sure na safe sayo. Eh ang ginagawa ng bill na ito ay nililipat from FDA to DTI ang regulasyon, at simple lang ang dahilan: kasi daw mas lenient ang DTI,” he said, referring to the transfer of the regulation of vaporized nicotine products from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
(If we wanted to make sure that the food we eat or the medicines we intake are safe, then the FDA should be in charge. But, the bill transferred the power to regulate vape to the DTI just because the latter is more lenient.)
Cayetano warned that if the regulatory functions are moved to the DTI, the Philippines will become “a laughing stock” as other nations strengthen their regulations through their respective food and drugs administrations.
“We’re moving towards science-based [approach] naman ‘di ba…‘pag nilipat mo sa DTI na hindi sila kumpleto sa gamit, sa mga laboratory, sa mga doktor, sa mga mag-iinterpret ng data, delikado ‘to,” Cayetano said, stating that the FDA is far more equipped to regulate substances such as vape compared to the DTI.
(We’re moving towards a science-based [approach]…it will be dangerous to transfer the regulatory power to DTI without complete equipment, laboratories, doctors, and professionals who can interpret data [relating to such regulation].)
Despite his strong opposition, along with the position of the DOH and more than 50 medical groups and associations in the country against the Vape Bill, the Senate and the House of Representatives proceeded to ratify the reconciled versions of the bill on January 25 and 26, 2022. The bill was to be transmitted to the President for his signature.
Still, Cayetano said he believes the President will be true to his word that the Vape Bill will undergo thorough vetting before it is brought to him for his signature.
“There are things being swept under the rug, whether it’s e-sabong, whether itong saan kukunin y’ung ayuda or itong vape [whether it’s e-sabong, direct stimulus, or vape]. So I think it’s important na mapag-usapan natin lahat ito (we should be vocal about these issues),” the former Speaker said.