Vapes and the need to raise revenues

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    SENATORS, in close-door caucus, have agreed to pass legislation that would regulate rather than ban e-cigarettes and vapes. Sen. Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate ways and means committee, is pushing for taxation rather than confiscation of vape products, and the way the senators – with the exception of Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino – received her arguments, it would seem that the government’s policy on vaping would be its legalization, stringent regulation and full taxation.

    The senators are all set to complete the passage of Senate Bill 1074 or the Sin Tax Bill that includes the item on vaping by Dec. 4, it was announced by Senate majority floor leader Juan Miguel Zubiri. The bill also includes heated tobacco products (HTPs) and had been certified as urgent by President Duterte.

    This issue took on a controversial status when the President lashed out at vaping, whether in public or inside one’s private abode, mainly due to the practice’s being detrimental to health, just like plain smoking. The police were ordered to arrest violators, and what followed was a string of police raids and operations in which vape stores were closed and their merchandise confiscated. And this was done without a formal law, executive order, ordinance or court order, opening the police to risks of court suits.

    Several senators, led by Tolentino, raised questions on whether or not vapes should be deleted from the bill. Sen. Tol pointed out that such products should be declared illegal in the first place, as the country has no law or regulations on such nicotine delivery devices.

    It would seem that the government badly needed funding for the Universal Healthcare Law, passed during the last Congress, so that they are even willing to tap dangerous vaporizers as sources of revenues.

    There is sense in Sen. Tolentino’s admonition that vapes could be tampered with to allow users to inhale methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu. There were reports from the field that cannabis oil, which is still illegal in the Philippines, is being used by vape merchants to lace the vapor devices in the guise of giving these the needed flavor.

    Tolentino pointed out on the floor of the Senate that at least 33 countries, including the United States, China, and Australia, have banned or are moving to prohibit vapes due to the serious and deleterious effects on the health of users.

    While they can, local government units in Metro Manila are doing their level best to at least regulate vaping, in the absence of a written law on the practice. Pasig City, for instance, put the National Capital Region Police Office in a quandary by having designated public places for vaping. Also, vaping surely contributed to the death of a teenage girl in the Visayas due to lung failure.

    While there is still time, the senators might want to consider the points raised by Sen. Tolentino on vaping.