The President of the Philippines has ordered a ban on vaping in public and ordered the police to arrest anyone caught publicly vaping.
Rodrigo Duterte, a populist president who rules with a dictatorial style, said last week that he did not need to issue a formal executive order for the ban because there is already an existing law against distributing toxic substances in public places.
According to the New York Times, the National Police said that they would follow Duterte’s order, pointing to a 2017 executive order that provided for the “establishment of smoke-free environments in public and enclosed places.” According to the police, the 2017 order gives Duterte’s anti-vape directive legal backing.
Filipinos would still be allowed to vape in private under Duterte’s ban, but the president suggested it was a “stupid” habit that would “contaminate your children in the family.”
Duterte’s directive comes amid heightened concerns that the vaping industry is sinking its claws into young Filipinos. Facing restrictions at home, San Francisco-based JUUL Labs has been aggressively peddling its products overseas, including in the Philippines where it is employing some of the same youth-oriented marketing and sales strategies it used to hook American kids on nicotine.
Several nations have adopted tougher vaping laws spurred by epidemic rates of youth vaping. Concern is also growing over the surge of vaping-related lung injuries in the U.S., which have started to appear in other countries.
The first case of vaping-related lung illness in the Philippines was reported earlier this month. A 16-year-old Filipino girl had been vaping for six months when she developed severe breathing problems. She was admitted to the hospital and treated by a pediatric pulmonologist. She has since been released.
Duterte, a former smoker, is also fiercely opposed to smoking tobacco. He forced a ban similar to the anti-vaping ban on smoking more than two years ago, making it illegal to smoke tobacco in public.
“As you know, nicotine is an addictive devil,” Duterte said last week, according to the New York Times. “And if you have to have a fix, well, you have to find some latrine there anywhere, but not in the madding crowd.”
Philippines Senator Pia Cayetano, who leads the Senate’s Ways and Means Committee, said that she favors strong regulation of vape products over an outright ban as several other countries have adopted. But she said public health should “take precedence over any business or commercial interest.”
In September, Donald Trump vowed to take strong action against the vaping industry by imposing a ban on all vape flavors except tobacco. He has since reeled back that promise after being warned that his chances of re-election could be weakened by following through with the measures, which could harm some businesses.
Emer Rojas, the president of the New Vois Association of the Philippines, an antismoking lobby, indicated to the New York Times that vaping could be more harmful to health than smoking. He said deaths linked to vaping had been on the rise around the world, but deaths linked to smoking conventional cigarettes were recorded only after years of use.
“E-cigarettes may be more deadly since people get sick and die in just a few years of vaping,” said Mr. Rojas told the New York Times.
Beasley Allen lawyers Joseph VanZandt and Sydney Everett, together with Mass Torts Section Head Andy Birchfield, are currently representing several individuals who are suing the top U.S. vape maker JUUL for the negative impact its products have had on their lives. On Oct. 7 they also filed lawsuits on behalf of school districts in three states, which seek to protect students and recover resources spent fighting the vaping epidemic.