In a surprising move, the Philippines House of Representatives is urging that vaping be included in the country’s tobacco control strategy. The legislative body issued a resolution asking the health department to promote tobacco harm reduction.
The resolution, authored by Reps. Anthony Bravo and Jose Tejada, references the experience in the U.K., where public health authorities have promoted vaping as a safer alternative for cigarette smokers. According to the Manila Standard, the lawmakers specifically cite the landmark reports from Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians.
A resolution is not law or even binding on the regulators. It is a recommendation by the legislature that the department of health regulate vapes without banning them.
Earlier this year, government officials attended a Philippine tobacco harm reduction conference, organized by advocacy group The Vapers Philippines. There experts like Greek cardiologist Konstantinos Farsalinos spoke about the benefits of low-risk nicotine products as alternatives to combustible cigarettes. Farsalinos urged the country to adopt regulations that recognize the difference in risk between vaping and smoking.
According to the most recent national tobacco use survey, 23.8 percent of the adult population smokes. That was in 2015. Since then, president Rodrigo Duterte has instituted strong tobacco control measures, including the threat of prison for those selling to minors.
Few expected the legislature in a Duterte-controlled country to advocate for tobacco harm reduction measures. The country’s leader is known for approving brutal treatment for drug users, including murder. During his presidential campaign, he promised to kill 100,000 drug “addicts” and dealers, and said the fish in Manila Bay would grow fat feeding on all the bodies he would dump there.
“We thank our legislators for keeping an open mind to the growing body of scientific evidence supporting e-cigarettes as a significantly less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes,” The Vapers Philippines president Peter Paul Dator told the Standard. “We urge the [Department of Health] to do the same and help save lives.”