Solons asked: Create e-cigs regulatory framework

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    A risk-proportionate and realistic regulatory framework will help maximize the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or vapes) as an effective harm reduction and smoking cessation strategy for the promotion of public health.

    This was the key message of Dr. Konstantinos E. Farsalinos in his testimony before the joint Trade and Health committee of the House of Representatives recently. The committee is tackling several bills that seek to regulate the manufacture, importation, packaging, use, sale, distribution, and advertisement of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

    “The best example of a comprehensive and fully implemented regulatory framework on e-cigarettes is the Tobacco Products Directive of the European Union,” explained Farsalinos, an Adjunct Professor at the King Abdulaziz University; and Researcher at Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, University of Patras, and National School of Public Health, all in Greece.

    The TPD was promulgated in 2014 and adopted into the national legislation of all EU member states in 2016. It regulates e-cigarettes under a separate section that does not classify them as tobacco products.

    “This is appropriate because e-cigarettes do not contain any tobacco. All e-cigarette products in the EU are marketed as consumer products with limited restrictions. The Philippines has an opportunity to use the TPD as a guide in creating an e-cigarette regulatory framework that will maximize public health benefits and minimize potential risks,” stressed Farsalinos.

    He urged local legislators to consider several principles in creating an appropriate e-cigarette regulatory framework.

    According to Farsalinos, regulation for e-cigarettes should be risk-proportionate. “This is the only proper approach to the regulation of any product. Evidence on risk determines the levels of restrictions that need to be implemented. There is compelling and undisputed evidence on the very low risk of e-cigarettes, especially when compared with the devastating effects of smoking.”

    E-cigarette regulation should be realistic and ensure product quality, said Farsalinos. “It would make little sense to create a regulation that would be expensive or difficult to comply. This would result in the elimination of electronic cigarettes and the creation of an uncontrolled black market. Both consequences will end-up protecting tobacco cigarette sales while no quality standards can be expected from black market products.”

    He underscored the importance of regulations to ensure that e-cigarettes do not target never-smokers and youth. “Selling of e-cigarettes to people below 18 years old should be banned, with heavy fines imposed on violators. There should be specific regulatory restrictions—not a ban—on e-cigarette advertising and marketing and proper education that e-cigarettes should be used as smoking substitutes only.

    “I encourage the Philippines to follow the lead of other countries that have looked at the evidence with an open mind and made decisions that will eventually eliminate smoking,” Farsalinos said.