MANILA, Philippines – Executive Order (EO) 26 or the nationwide smoking ban in all public places does not cover electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial confirmed to Rappler on Friday, May 19.
"We will include [it] when we have more [information] and [recommendation] from WHO," Ubial told Rappler in a text message on Friday.
WHO refers to the United Nations' health agency, the World Health Organization.
Back in November 2016, Health Spokersperson Eric Tayag said that the draft version of the EO covers e-cigarettes, although he admitted then that the health department is not sure if it will be included in the final version.
True enough, the 8-page EO signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, May 16, does not include e-cigarettes in its definition of smoking and tobacco products.
The EO defined smoking as "being in possession or control of a lit tobacco product regardless of whether the smoke is being actively inhaled or exhaled."
Tobacco products, meanwhile, refer to "products entirely or partly made of tobacco leaf as raw material which are manufactured to be used for smoking, sucking, chewing or snuffing, such as but not limited to cigarette, cigar, pipe, shisha/hookah, and chew tobacco."
In a statement sent to reporters on Friday, the health department said the EO was patterned after the Davao City ordinance "when it was in the early years of implementation."
The implementing rules and regulations of Davao City's New Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance (Ordinance No. 0367-12) prohibits "smoking any tobacco product or using Electronic Device System, Shisha, and the like" in all public transport, entertainment establishments, work places, enclosed and partially enclosed public places, public buildings, and public outdoor spaces.
New Vois Association of the Philippines president Emer Rojas told Rappler that even though the EO does not include e-cigarettes, it "shows political will in saving people's lives through tobacco control."
An August 2016 WHO report on e-cigarettes or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS/ENNDS) said scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of these devices as a smoking cessation aid "is scant and of low certainty, making it difficult to draw credible inferences."
While it is likely that both are "less toxic than cigarette smoke," the WHO report said that they "are unlikely to be harmless."
A decision adopted during the recent 7th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in India invited parties that have not yet banned the importation, sale, and distribution of ENDS/ENNDS to consider either prohibiting or regulating such products. – Rappler.com
Woman inhaling e-cigarette image from Shutterstock