May 20, 2024

Medical experts have warned that with the vape and e-cigarette industry targeting the youth, the proposition of turning the Philippines into a manufacturing hub for e-cigarettes puts the country at risk of an epidemic of e-cigarette or vape-associated lung injury (Evali).

“According to the latest Global Youth Tobacco Survey, approximately one out of every seven Filipino youths aged 13 to 15 are now using vapes. This alarming trend is not a coincidence but a result of the tobacco industry’s calculated marketing tactics targeting the youth,” pulmonologist Dr. Maricar Limpin of the Action on Smoking and Health, warned during a roundtable discussion with media and young people on Thursday in Makati.

The country was touted as a potential hub for manufacturing heated tobacco before the international community at the International Tobacco Agricultural Summit in August 2023.

“We will not sit idly by and turn a blind eye to the predatory practices of this industry. By allowing the Philippines to position itself as a manufacturing hub, we are essentially paving the way for an Evali epidemic,” Limpin said.

“It was just one case in 2019, but we’re beginning to observe more and more cases today, especially among young people.”

Evali is a medical condition causing lung damage from substances contained in vaping products. While there is no available data on the number of cases of Evali and related injuries and deaths in the Philippines, the Department of Health recorded the first case in the country in November 2019 – a 16-year-old girl from the Visayas who was using both vape and cigarettes.

As of February 2020, nearly 3,000 patients had been admitted to hospitals in the United States due to Evali, with 68 deaths reported so far.

“You’d expect this smoking behavior from a middle-aged smoker, but we saw it in a 16-year-old. With how accessible vapes are, tobacco is now an issue for children, too, and the growing Evali cases are proof,” Dr. Riz Gonzalez, chair of the Philippine Pediatric Society Tobacco and Nicotine Control Advocacy Group said.

She urged lawmakers to revisit Republic Act 11900, or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which transfers regulatory jurisdiction over vapes and other novel tobacco products from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Trade and Industry.

“The tobacco industry is actively targeting the youth with flavors, colorful packaging, and misleading marketing tactics, and the free rein they get from the Vape Law is to blame. We’ve seen this playbook before with cigarettes, and we cannot allow an Evali crisis to happen here in the Philippines.”

Au Quilala, deputy executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, said: “We urge the government to prioritize the people over the interests of the industry by restricting these tactics targeting children. If this continues, the Philippines could end up becoming a vape colony,” Quilala said. – Press release