DOH mulls covering e-cigarettes in smoking ban implementation

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial also reveals her department's plan to bring to the Philippines a technology that will detect ambient nicotine present indoors

Jee Y. Geronimo

Published: 10:00 AM June 1, 2017

Updated: 12:06 PM June 1, 2017

MANILA, Philippines – Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes may not be covered by Executive Order 26 (EO), but the health department said it is studying whether to include it in the EO's implementing rules and regulations (IRR).

"In terms of implementation, we will still study if we should include it in the IRR, but right now there's an advisory from [the Food and Drug Administration] that it is harmful to your health," Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said after a recent press conference for World No Tobacco Day.

She explained that while e-cigarettes were not specifically mentioned in the EO, an earlier FDA advisory already said that "it cannot be undertaken indoors or [in] enclosed places." (READ: Can PH regulate its e-cigarette industry?)

A 2013 FDA advisory warned that "secondhand exposure to e-cigarette emission which may lead to adverse health effects cannot be excluded."

The same advisory cited a study and said that "the levels of most harmful substances are lower in the e-cigarettes than in conventional cigarette smoke, but they do accumulate in indoor air."

"If several people are using e-cigarettes in a room at the same time, considerable indoor air pollution will accumulate and may result to harmful second-hand exposure," the FDA said in the advisory. 

On Tuesday, May 30, Ubial said they are already working on bringing to the Philippines a technology that will detect ambient nicotine present indoors – whether it's from cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

"Like in this particular room, if there's nicotine, even if nobody is smoking here but people who used the room before we came in smoked, then that gadget can detect it," Ubial explained.

She added: "Even if they only use vape and there is ambient nicotine or vapors or particles, that's what the gadget can detect, so they don't even have to prove that it's harmful to other people. Once we've detected that there's nicotine, even if they're using e-cigarettes, then that is already a proof that it is not 100% smoke-free, so there's violation of the executive order."

Ubial said this plan is still under negotiations, but the technology is already available in the United Kingdom.

An August 2016 World Health Organization (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." (READ: Coming soon: National hotline for smokers who want to quit)

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

Man vaping an electronic cigarette photo from Shutterstock