Announcing his plans to clampdown on vaping, Duterte said: “This vaping, they say it is electronic. Don’t give me that shit. Better stop it, I will order your arrest if you do it in a room. That is like smoking. You contaminate people.”
Given his history of state-sponsored murder, it is impossible to know if Duterte is being serious when, last week, he added in a public presentation: “I don’t know the devil who invented that. I asked to look for that person to put him to extrajudicial killing. Son of a bitch. Where’s the police? Tell him to kill that son of a bitch.”
His audience is reported to have laughed, but then wouldn’t we all when faced with a murderous madman in a high position of power and a propensity to making people disappear. On becoming Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte waged a “war on drugs”, killing “more than 6,600 people” and triggering a human rights abuse investigation by the United Nations, according to The Financial Times [link].
He spoke of his hypocritical stance towards smoking: “Why cannot we ban cigarettes? Why? Because we allow its manufacture and maybe the importation of tobacco. We allow it and we tax them.”
He used the platform to restate his intention for vapers to be jailed for the crime of reducing their harm exposure. Anybody intending on travelling from the UK to see the Southeast Asian Games needs to bear in mind that the anti-vaping clampdown applies to them as well as Pinoy citizens.
There are other voices in the Philippines; politician Surigao del Norte recently spoke out in favour of harm reduction and how vaping could offer smokers a safer route to use nicotine – but this was dealt a blow by Pinoy Senators, who voted to place harsh conditions on the sale and supply of vape products imposing a punitive tax rate on eLiquids acts as a deterrent to smokers looking to switch.
In addition, the National Capital Region Police are in the process of conduction (according to some) an illegal campaign forcing vape stores to close. Brigadier General Debold Sinas reported: “As of last night, we ordered 51 vape sources to close shop and refrain from selling their wares. We also now have arrested 22 persons.” This is in addition to the 238 vape stores to date that have been padlocked by his officers.
Is this action supported by the World Health Organisation? Do the likes of Martin McKee applaud Duterte’s crackdown? The Pinoy ban may not have taken the form Duterte promised, but his words should send a chill down the spine of every harm reduction advocate in the region.