Senator Pia joins health groups calling for vaping bill veto
WHILE ‘rejoicing’ that the Supreme Court upheld the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) mandate to regulate tobacco products, Senator Pia Cayetano joined doctors and health advocates in calling for a veto of the Vaping Bill, which the 18th Congress approved, and gives the Department of Commerce and Industry (DTI), not the FDA, the primary task of regulating vaping products.
The SC’s decision “is clear that the FDA must regulate all products that affect health. So for me that would clearly include vapes and e-cigs. On that note, it’s simpler if the president [Duterte] would veto the bill. Many of us are quite confident because naiintindihan niya ang [he understands the] Science. We hope talaga [really] that he would veto it,” Cayetano said at a press conference where she was joined by several leading health advocates, including former FDA chief Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go.
However, Cayetano noted, partly in Filipino, that, “As far as I know, the Vape Bill isn’t in Malacañang yet and I’m surprised because it passed in January and yet it’s not not yet with Malacañang. So as far as I’m concerned, when June 30 rolls around” and the bill is with the president, … “we pray that he does the right thing and vetoes it.
“However, if he has not been sent to Malacañang by June 30, tapos na yan [that bill is over]. Because it was not sent to the president in time.
Referring to incoming President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., she added, “And my prayer is that the new President and his administration keep health care going. I know the president is from a tobacco culture [province]but I also know that the president will do what he has to do to protect the health of the Filipino people.
Cayetano called the briefing to lay out the implications of the recent
“Historic Supreme Court decision that is highly scientific and upholds Filipinos’ right to health.” In this SC case (GR 2200431), where the High Court upheld the FDA’s “power and authority” to regulate tobacco products, it and Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon had acted as stakeholders.
“This SC decision is so relevant because when I worked on the FDA Act (RA 9711) – it was in 2009 at the 14th Congress, and I was just in my fifth year as a senator – I I was already fighting for the FDA to regulate all products that affect health, because that is the definition of FDA law. “Health product” refers to any product that may have an effect on health”, has said Cayetano.
“In 2009, I fought for it,” she recalls, partly in Filipino.
“Fast forward to this Congress, in the last six months leading up to the campaign period, I fought for this again, because of this new product called e-cigs and vapes. I explained that health products, as defined by law, are anything that affects health. And the example I gave – shampoo, conditioner, insect repellent, lotion, cosmetics, food products – are all regulated by the FDA. Thus, vapes and e-cigs should also be regulated,” the senator stressed.
“And now the SC has basically upheld that principle – that if it’s a product that affects your health, the FDA should regulate,” she added.
She then asked the “health frontrunners…many of whom have worked on this FDA law, on tobacco control, and even now on these related products called vapes and e-cigs,” to weigh in on the issue.
Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance-Philippines (FCAP), noted that “every hour, 13 Filipinos die from tobacco use, according to the Global Burden of Disease report released in 2017.”
That makes an FDA-mandated agency crucial, she added, while expressing hope that “the outgoing president will heed the call from doctors and health advocates to veto the bill on the vape”.
Certainly, Limpin said, “DTI can’t do the job of protecting health; only the FDA has the authority to do so with DOH direction.
Dr. Edgardo Ulysses Dorotheo, executive director of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), noted that “in all other ASEAN countries, it is the ministry of health that regulates tobacco products.” He found it “unusual that here in the Philippines, the DTI is appointed to head the inter-agency committee on tobacco.”
Before the US Surgeon General released the first report on smoking and health in 1964, cigarettes had been considered consumer products for 16 years. Since 1964, governments around the world have regulated tobacco products as health products, Dorotheo added. “More than 8 million people are killed every year because of tobacco – more than 120,000 Filipinos a year. It is not just a common consumer product. Cigarettes are now more harmful than before,” he added.
For his part, former FDA chief Dr. Hartigan-Go said, “After almost 10 years, we got the law interpreted correctly. Cigarettes are products that contain harmful substances that affect health.