In celebration of World No Tobacco Day, Action for Economic Reforms (AER) urges our senators to protect the health of Filipinos by passing legislation that strengthens the regulation of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs), protecting the youth from these harmful products.

Both houses of Congress are currently discussing measures which aim to amend Republic Act 11467, a law passed early in 2020, that introduced taxes for electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

Unfortunately, the current version in the House of Representatives carries several provisions which actually dilute the gains from Republic Act 11467. Instead, we should give the law ample time and opportunity to take off and achieve its goals.

The proposed changes are biased towards the e-cigarettes and HTPs’ manufacturers’ misleading marketing that these novel products are tobacco cessation tools. Lack of credible data and limited evidence put into question their effectiveness for smoking cessation. Moreover, these products are not even registered as a smoking cessation tool by the FDA.

Rather than easing the regulatory features of R.A 11467, which exposes the youth to the dangers posed by e-cigarettes and HTPs, we should make the regulation stronger especially in the time of Covid-19. Several studies have shown that smokers of traditional tobacco and novel products like vapes and heated tobacco products face a much higher risk of developing a severe case of Covid-19.

AER stands firm that taxation is still the best regulatory measure to curb youth consumption. As such, e- cigarettes and HTPs should be taxed similarly as traditional manufactured tobacco.

AER and the sin tax advocates support Senator Pia Cayetano’s stand that more than being a fiscal measure, the passage of regulation related to these products should be viewed primarily as having great impact on the health of the Filipino people.

Thus, we call on our legislators to be more circumspect and vigilant in regulating e-cigarettes and other sin products to protect Filipinos, most especially the youth, from the dangers of these addictive products. We are hopeful that the Senate version of the bill will be more in keeping with the Constitutional guarantee that “the state shall protect and promote the right to health of the people.”