Anti-tobacco group urges Duterte to reconsider vaping ban

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2019 08:56 AM | Updated as of Nov 20 2019 09:14 AM

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MANILA - A group advocating for e-cigarettes as an alternative to tobacco on Wednesday appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider his vaping ban.

Dr. Lorenzo Mata, president of the group “Quit For Good," said vapes are "95 percent less harmful" than cigarettes, citing studies from the United Kingdom.

"We would respectfully appeal to the President to reconsider his decision because it can have dire consequences in the health and economy of the nation," he told ANC's Early Edition.

"Without a viable alternative to smoking, now considered as 95 percent less harmful than tobacco cigarette, then we are depriving the 17 million Filipino smokers of this opportunity."

Dr. Maricar Limpin, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, meantime welcomed the President's order and said the studies Mata cited were "commissioned by vaping companies."

"Dr. Mata, I think you are veering away from the first and basic principle and that is to do no harm," she said.

"That means you want to ensure people will not be harmed in any way. So if you are going to give alternatives, it has to be an alternative that is going to pose no harm to people."

Mata said he was for "strict regulation" of e-cigarettes, citing the "dismal" success rate of government's anti-smoking program of 4 percent.

"We’re talking here of 16.3 million Filipino smokers statistically unable to quit. Are we just going to say to these people it's either quit cold turkey or you die?" he said,

"This is a free country. They have a right to choose which one they would like to have as a product to at least take them away from the harmful effect of tobacco cigarette."

Mata added that vape itself does not cause any harm and called for "strict regulation" of e-cigarettes, including prohibiting the youth of its use.

"It’s the illicit e-juice that is placed inside the e-cigarette. It's just like you cannot blame the syringe for the injection of heroine The syringe is just the conduit," he said.

Limpin, however, said there is still harm in using vapes.

"When you talk about harm reduction, you want to move the risk from having it to zero risk. What is being offered is positive risk and then somewhat middle but not zero," she said.

"When you talk about alternative, the best way is really to stop."

The Philippines, with some 1 million users of e-cigarettes, earlier confirmed its first reported case of an illness related to vaping, one involving a teenage girl.

The DOH is calling for an outright ban on vaping as it warned Filipinos that e-cigarettes are not a proven nicotine replacement therapy and can cause lung illness.

A lawmaker has filed a measure seeking its ban on public places, while another called for vaping products to be removed from the market.