The Vape Law – how much of a danger is it to our kids and what can we do now?

The news that the Vape Bill, short for Senate Bill 2239 or the “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act”, had lapsed into law last July 25, comes as a huge disappointment for me.

In a press release that I received from Social Watch Philippines (SWP), they disclosed that “the bill was transmitted to the Office of the President, just three days before former President Rodrigo Duterte stepped down from public office.” SWP also said that “in a letter dated July 15, 2022, SWP joined the Department of Health (DOH), many other health professionals, public health advocates, and sectoral representatives in their appeal to veto the regressive bill.”

Obviously, the bill was not vetoed in time and it lapsed into law.

Image by Lindsay Fox from Pixabay


My personal advocacy against smoking and cigarette-like products

I have always been against smoking. My father was a chain smoker who could finish a pack a day. I remember that as young as 10 years old, I would join my Mom in calling for him to quit smoking. We knew then that secondhand smoke was even more dangerous than the smoke inhaled by the smoker since it was unfiltered.

Thankfully, for some reason that I could no longer remember, my father just quit smoking one day. Cold turkey. And he never touched a single stick of cigarettes afterwards. It was a small family miracle.

Now, here is a Vape Law and I worry that there are future health implications that we may be overlooking. Let’s look closer.

What the bill’s authors/sponsors say about the Vape Law

This article dated July 28, 2022 lists down the reactions of several legislators who supported the bill.

In short, the reasons they gave for creating the Vape Law can be summarized into these main points:

  1. It is a “better” alternative to smoking.
  2. It helps Filipinos quit smoking, which kills almost 100,000 Filipinos annually
  3. It protects our minors (only 18 years old and above can purchase vapes)

You can find the entire Senate Bill 2239 here.

Vape Law – Senate Bill 2239 by Jane

What does the opposing side say about the dangers of the Vape Law?

Many sectors expressed alarm over the lapsing of the Vape Law, citing several reasons.

  1. Regressive provisions – Several provisions were cited as regressive. One, the law, which automatically lapsed into law last 25 July 2022, lowers the access of vape products from 21 to 18. Two, the law transfers the regulation of vape products from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Lastly, it allows flavors aside from tobacco and menthol.
  2. Vape products are harmful and should never be marketed as safe alternatives to conventional cigarettes – According to those contesting the Vape Law, most of these vape products contain nicotine—the addictive drug in regular cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products.
  3. They fear that consuming nicotine before the age of 25 can harm the parts of the brain responsible for attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
  4. They want vape products to be regulated by the FDA instead of the DTI.

In this CNN article, even former DOH Secretary Duque was reported to have said that contrary to claims that vaping could break a smoker’s addiction, they often serve the opposite purpose, as they introduce the person to more vices like alcohol and marijuana use. This is one of the rare occasions when I actually agree with the former DOH Secretary.

My thoughts (and questions)

The fact that even the DOH, health practitioners, and some lawmakers were against the Vape Law spoke volumes to me. It means that what prevailed were the corporate interests of the tobacco industry. How could our President (the previous and current one) ignore the feedback from its own government agency on public health and allow this bill to lapse into law?

Vetoing would have been the safest move. When Pres. Marcos Jr. assumed office, he vetoed five (5) bills. I wish he included the Vape Law.

Vetoing the Vape Law would have bought time for the current administration to study the health implications of vaping more carefully. After all, pro-vaping authors could always re-file the bill if they felt strongly about it. Now that it is law, repealing it will be a longer and more complicated process if unforeseen negative health effects are found down the road.

I went to the website of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that specifically addressed vaping effects on kids, teens, and young adults to see what it had to say. You can read through the comprehensive page but here are some I selected just to highlight and affirm why I believe the dissenters of the Vape Law have solid reasons to oppose the law. My reactions are in italics.

  1. The CDC categorically states that vaping (or use of e-cigarettes) is “unsafe for kids, teens, and young adults”. This article shows that prior to enactment of the Vape Law, the Philippines was one of only 7 countries where vaping was pegged at 21 years old and above. (What is the rationale for lowering the previous age limit for vaping from 21 to 18 years old?)
  2. Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future. (This negates the reasoning that vaping helps smokers kick the habit. Lowering the age even further to 18 actually makes younger individuals try vaping and likely, smoking much earlier.)
  3. Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. CDC actually points out that the brain continues to develop till age 25. (If these are the findings of CDC, are we not stunting the development of our children’s brains? Why in the world are we allowing 18 year olds to vape without knowing what chemicals aside from nicotine are in there? Shouldn’t we be waiting to see what science says about its long-term effects?)
  4. Aside from nicotine, vape products have other chemicals in it called e-cigarette vapor. It looks like harmless smoke but CDC enumerates several ingredients including “ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds; cancer-causing chemicals; and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead”.
  5. Using nicotine in adolescence increases the risk of addiction to other drugs. (Self-explanatory. It is addictive!)
  6. Vaping has a bearing on the state of mental health of the youth. They could vape to relieve stress and anxiety but in turn, vaping creates a dependence on nicotine which can be a source of stress. CDC also points out that vaping has led to mental health symptoms such as depression.
  7. Because it comes in different flavors, including fruit and candy, vaping is actually appealing to the youth. (This begs the question – are we allowing vaping to help smokers quit? Or is allowing flavored vape products actually enticing more young people to get addicted?)
  8. Lastly, current science is still studying the short- and long-term effects of vaping but based on available information, the science already shows these products have harmful and potentially harmful ingredients.

The CDC article also says that “In August 2016, the regulatory authority of the FDA was extended to cover e-cigarettes through the agency’s “deeming rule.” If a first-world country like the U.S. requires vape products to be regulated by their FDA, why are we transferring authority to DTI?  Vape products should be regulated as medicinal products and not simply as commercial products which DTI monitors.

For parents, what now?

The Vape Law is already here and unless repealed soon, we parents will have to watch out for our kids.

I can think of some immediate suggestions for parents:

  1. Be your family role model. DO NOT SMOKE. If you currently smoke, consider quitting.
  2. Talk openly and frankly with your preteens and teens about the harm of vaping. A family physician or medical practitioner close to the family can be a credible source of information about vaping and its harmful effects.
  3. Speak with school administrators about the possibility of including information about the harmful effects of vape products in its curriculum or organize school workshops on the topic.

One last word

For a country with a very poor healthcare system, I was hoping our government would place a premium on raising the bar of public health. Curbing smoking (and vaping) would have been a big step towards a healthier Philippines. Instead, it seems as though we are just trying to shift smokers to vaping, with almost the same dire effects on health.

We should not stop talking about the ill effects of vape products. At this point, the tobacco sector has the upper hand by successfully getting the Vape Law to pass. It will continue to use its deep pockets to resist any moves to quell the use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

Health advocates, please continue lobbying for this law’s repeal for the sake of our children.

Personally, I will continue speaking up and will support our legislators who are willing to work on its repeal.

(First published on