Late in the evening of January 25, the Senate approved the bicameral conference committee report reconciling the disagreeing provisions of Senate Bill 2239 and House Bill 9007, otherwise known as the Vape Bill. 

The measure, which was not on the agenda that day, was immediately ratified before Senator Pia Cayetano could ask questions about the report, bypassing any opportunity for public debate. 

The ratification of the bicameral report mirrors the haste with which the bill was passed. It was railroaded in the House and the Senate without considering the views of the medical community strongly opposing the bill. More than 50 medical societies, including the Philippine College of Physicians and Philippine Medical Association, have been sounding the alarm on the bill’s harmful provisions, namely: 1) lowering the age of access to vape from 21 to 18 years old, 2) transferring regulatory powers of vape products from the FDA to the DTI, and 3) removing the existing 2-flavor restriction. The bill expands the market of vape products to include the youth and non-smokers.

We condemn the bicameral conference committee’s insertion of provisions that were in neither House nor Senate versions, further relaxing regulation on tobacco companies. 

The bicameral committee added a provision allowing sponsorships of vape companies beyond industry associations and trade events. Another insertion allowed vape companies to conduct corporate social responsibility (CSR) related activities, which goes against the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, Article 5.3, Principle 6. The WHO FCTC states: “Denormalize and, to the extent possible, regulate activities described as ‘socially responsible’ by the tobacco industry, including but not limited to activities described as “corporate social responsibility.” This is because the tobacco industry’s functions are in conflict with the goals of public health policies in relation to tobacco control.

This deregulatory bill is now also a bill that directly counters a legally binding international treaty we have been abiding by for the past 17 years. The insertions make it clear that the bill is blatantly pro-industry.

We echo Senator Cayetano’s strong opposition to the bill. We laud her for being one of the only legislators who fought for the Filipinos’ right to health and countered the misinformation peddled by the tobacco industry. 

Yesterday, January 26, the House also ratified the bicameral report of the vape bill, which means that the bill only needs the President’s signature to be enacted into law.

We thus appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign a bill that reverses the gains his administration has made in strengthening tobacco control. We hope he thinks of his young daughter and the millions of youth and non-smokers the bill puts at risk, and vetoes the bill in its entirety. 

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The Sin Tax Coalition is an alliance of healthcare professionals, civil society organizations, and youth groups who advocate for strict regulation of both traditional and novel tobacco products. It was formed to push for the passage of the Sin Tax Law in 2012 and also supported other tobacco control measures such as the Graphic Health Warning Law and the Executive Order banning the use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes & heated tobacco products in public places.