MANILA (UPDATE) - Vaping is a "new public health menace" that must be heavily regulated, a House leader said Saturday, saying she would file a bill to prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors.
The Philippines' first vaping-related injury involving a 16-year-old girl from the Visayas "ascertains vaping as a new public health menace and merits a forceful set of responses," House Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy said in a statement.
Under a House bill set to be filed next week, minors will be banned from buying vape products, and vape juice flavors will be limited to tobacco and menthol.
"The fruity and other flavors are there to deceive buyers, especially the young, into liking vaping because of the flavors," Herrera-Dy said.
Senate Health Committee chair Christopher "Bong" Go said he would "not hesitate to sponsor" a counterpart bill in the Senate as "smoking, in all forms and manner, is a public health issue."
He cited the need for stronger regulation of the production, distribution and use of all kinds of e-cigarettes.
"It adversely affects almost everyone around a smoker, even those who do not smoke at all. It poses serious health risks and anyone admitted for smoking-related illnesses, particularly those with limited financial capacity, also puts pressure on government resources to be spent for their health and wellness," he said in a separate statement.
A recent British study showed that chronic smokers who switched to vaping saw improvements to their cardiovascular health.
But the Department of Health warned that e-cigarettes could still cause lung-related deaths and illnesses.
Vape users are at risk of getting electronic cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury (EVALI), the DOH said, citing data from the United States.
As of November 14, around 42 people have died while 2,172 were sickened from the use of e-cigarettes in the US, it said.
"No e-cigarette product should be accessible to young children and adolescents who are uniquely susceptible to the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine. I urge non-users not to even try e-cigarettes at all," Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo said in a statement.
"Ask your doctor about the best ways to quit, and stay away from its aerosol emissions," he said.
The DOH earlier recommended the total ban of electronic cigarette products in the Philippines.
The Finance department, on the other hand, is pushing for higher taxes on e-cigarettes to raise funds for universal health care.