One of the two workshops at the start of the day looked at the Philippines as a case study in regulation.
Undersecretary Sharon Garin spoke about the process of drafting the legislation, and in particular the issue of flavours in vaping products. Sharon currently oversees the Philippines’ Department of Energy’s Financial and Legal Services and was co-author of the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products (VNNP) Act 2022.
She said: “Our objectives were firstly for minors not to consume [Vaporized Nicotine and Non-nicotine Products (VNNPs)], and secondly for current smokers to adopt a less harmful habit. If we removed flavours, that might affect the adults who were already smokers. They want more options when they decide to switch to a less harmful product. So, the stance was let’s reduce the attractiveness of these products to minors. For instance, it’s prohibited to have packaging which is attractive to children, so cartoon characters are not allowed.
“The second point is to keep the flavours so that those who opt to switch [from cigarettes] to a healthier product have more options available. While the flavours are not restricted, the way you can name them is, so they cannot have flavours with names such as bubble gum that might attract children. It was not easy to formulate [this legislation] but that was how we balanced it and I think all the stakeholders were quite satisfied with the outcome.”
Cardiologist Dr Rafael Castillo added: “I was one of the late stars which aligned with the universe with regards to the vaping law. We really wanted to make sure that we were making the right recommendation and I must make a confession. Initially I had some misgivings about e-cigarettes as a solution as we were well aware of the big scare regarding EVALI. But we decided you should not throw the baby out with bath water, and we wanted to do our own research to see if these products could help us achieve what we wanted to achieve. And, after conducting studies ourselves, we were convinced that, although more data were needed, the use of VNNPs was definitely less harmful [than smoking combustible cigarettes] and could be considered to be a pragmatic middle ground to which we should bring our current adult cigarette smokers.”
Over in another room, attendees debated the transformation of the tobacco industry with a particular focus on low- and middle-income countries.
The co-founder of the Centre for Health Research and Education, Dr Sud Patwardhan said: “It is absolutely clear that consumers all around the world are demanding reduced risk products. They may not express it all around the world but that unexpressed mood is very, very strong, and it is also a fact that most tobacco companies have significant revenue and profit source from low-and-middle-income countries - if you look at India or Indonesia, or many countries in Africa, many countries in South America, [these countries are] big sources for tobacco companies for revenue and profit. And the other factor is that of course there is the FCTC [Framework Convention on Tobacco Control] guidelines, but these countries have limited capacity or capability...to enforce those guidelines, so there is a bit of regulatory uncertainty which also impacts commitment from the tobacco companies.”
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