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House joint panel TWG approves bill regulating vapes, e-cigarettes

A joint House panel technical working group (TWG) has approved the substitute bill on the measures seeking to regulate the manufacture, sale, and distribution of vapes, e-cigarettes, and other electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS).

The House Committee on Trade and Industry and on Health, in its earlier joint meeting, voted to approve the draft substitute bill for the proposed "Non-Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act."

House Committee on Trade and Industry chair Wes Gatchalian said the approval of the measure would stop the rampant proliferation of the illegal industry selling ENDS, ENNDS, and heated tobacco products (HTPs) to minors.

“We would like to emphasize that this bill will serve to regulate, and not ban, the sale of these products,” he said.

"Manufacturers of electrical devices intended to be used in combination with ENDS/ENNDS shall ensure that the devices they produce will comply with the applicable electrical safety standards set by the Bureau of Product Standards of the DTI,” Gatchalian added.

Under the measure, only persons 18 years old and above will be allowed to purchase, sell, and use ENDS, ENNDS, and HTPs. At the same time, the bill also limits the flavors that entice minors to vapes.

“Retailers will be required to verify the age of all buyers by requiring the presentation of any valid government-issued ID showing the buyer’s photograph and age or date of birth. Online sales will also require proof of age,” Gatchalian said.

“A person selling or distributing vape and e-cigarette products cannot use as a defense that he/she did not know or was not aware of the real age of the buyer,” he added.

The measure likewise prohibits the selling and distribution of ENDS/ENNDS or HTPs within 100 meters from any point of the perimeter of a school, playground, or other locations frequently visited by minors.

However, House Committee on Health chair Angelina "Helen" Tan and other members of the health panel opposed the substitute measure, saying that it "does not advance the constitutional policy of protecting and promoting the right to health of the people and instilling health consciousness among them."

"I cannot, in any way, support a legislation that pretends to be a health measure for all but which, in fact, gives primordial consideration to trade and commercial interests of the few," Tan said.

"Unfortunately, and contrary to its declaration of policy, the substitute bill by the TWG does not in any manner promote a healthy environment and protect the citizens from any hazards of electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems and heated tobacco products," she added.

For Tan, there is a need to strictly regulate ENDS/ENDDS and HTPs as they are designed to "mimic" traditional cigarette smoking, initiating non-smokers, particularly the youth, to nicotine-dependency.

She proposed that the legal age for the purchase of these products be set at 21 years old instead of 18.

Tan also supports requiring ENDS/ENNDS and HTPs manufacturers, distributors, importers, exporters, and sellers to register with the Food and Drug Administration before putting their products out in the market so as to ensure that they sufficiently passed quality and safety requirements and avoid untoward incidents to the public. KBK, GMA News