JUNE 27, 2022

The Supreme Court (SC) recently upheld the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over all health products, including tobacco products due to their harmful effects on health (DOH-FDA v. Philippine Tobacco Institute, G.R. No. 200431, July 13, 2021).

It likewise ruled that the Inter-Agency Committee (IAC)-Tobacco, chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has limited jurisdiction, specifically to acts such as the regulation of distribution, access, sale, labeling, advertisements, sponsorships, and promotions. The SC is clear: nothing in the law thus far gives IAC-Tobacco any authority over the health aspects of tobacco products.

Major transnational tobacco companies in the country are proposing an interpretation of Philippine law that will effectively remove them from regulation by the DOH and FDA, according to the SC. Their desired interpretation allows  for tobacco companies to be principally regulated by the IAC-Tobacco, chaired by the DTI.

The “Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act” or the Vape Bill, is now an enrolled bill with the Office of the President. Most of its provisions have equivalents in the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, with one glaring difference. Should it become law, Section 21 of the Vape Bill could give to the DTI full authority over all aspects of vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products and their devices; in fact, even over “novel tobacco products” that are made partly of tobacco leaf or with nicotine from tobacco. It will result in an absurd situation wherein similar products that cause harm and danger are regulated differently, in derogation of the government’s duty to protect public health.

Yielding the jurisdiction over vapor products from FDA to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), an exception to R.A. No. 9711 sought by the vape bill, contravenes the protection afforded by the FDA Act. The SC decision in DOH-FDA v. Philippine Tobacco Institute might as well be for naught, should the Vape Bill become law.

In his final leg, Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, an internationally renowned tobacco control champion, has been leading the DOH in its clarion call for Filipinos to say no to smoking and vaping. DOH once more urges President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to save more lives by vetoing the now enrolled Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act.