The last five decades saw millions of deaths and people afflicted with tobacco-related diseases. The negative impacts of smoking have risen to alarming rates. Based on the statistical data from the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, there are about 15.9 million people who smoke. The Philippine Statistics Authority stated that, during 2016, 70 percent of the total 582,183 deaths in the Philippines were caused by the top ten causes of death in the country, most of which relate to tobacco use. Whether through direct smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke, about 40 diseases are causally linked to smoking, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Smoking increases the risk of acquiring other diseases. Diseases directly associated with smoking include various cancers as well as chronic diseases. Children, meanwhile, could suffer from impaired lung functions and middle ear disease. On the other hand, there’s a great possibility that they might develop respiratory symptoms. There are also negative reproductive effects in women like ectopic pregnancies and reduced fertility and premature low-birth-weight babies.
Dr. Lorenzo Mata Jr., lead convenor and president of the group called Quit for Good, points out that the deadly effect of cigarette smoking is not due to the chemical compound present in tobacco named nicotine, but rather to the combustion of the tobacco that releases carbon monoxide and more than 7,000 chemicals in its tar. A total of 69 of these chemicals, he added, have been established to be carcinogenic. Furthermore, it was in the 1960s when British scientist Dr.
Mike Russell said that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar.
In a journal article published on 2019 written by Professor Mryna S. Austria and Jesson A. Pagaduan from De La Salle University of the Asian Development Bank, noted the findings of their study that the increase in the country’s excise tax through the Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012 has resulted in lower cigarette consumption among Filipinos. Therefore, the increase in excise tax due to the tax reform has been effective in reducing the number of cigarettes purchased by smokers. Due to the aforesaid law, it attenuates the power of cigarettes and decided smokers to quit.
Millions are seeking a way out from what has been proven as the deadly habit of cigarette smoking that’s why businessmen and anti-cigarette advocates from different parts of the globe saw the narrowing regime for tobacco smoking as an opportune time for e-cigarettes or vapes to penetrate the Philippine market. They affirmed for those who want to quit smoking and are unable to do so, smokers can switch to the less harmful and healthier alternative and made as a conduit to help transition smokers to quit. As a result of that, it became popular with millions of people all over the world as e-cigarettes evolved. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that it is not suitable for young people, for those who have never smoked before, and during pregnancy.
Vaping became the motivation for those who say they want to quit, and an offshoot for those who can’t afford a pack of cigarettes. The expanded national nutrition survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology revealed that about 120,000 adults aged 20 years old and overused e-cigarettes in 2018. While there were 30,000 younger Filipinos aged 10 to 19.9 years also used the product.
With the availability of alternatives, smokers shifted from cigarettes to e-cigarettes handling their own beliefs. The majority claimed that they are transitioning to vaping because they want to quit smoking. While some stated that they are now vapers because they can’t afford smoking due to the increase of price and young people thought that vaping is cool and chill regardless of its taste and hates the smell of smoke emanating from the traditional cigarette. Along with this, they believe vapes are less harmful than tobacco use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that e-cigarettes can benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant, as long as they completely replace any other nicotine or tobacco products.
Unfortunately, at some point, vaping has now become an entry point for the younger generation to start smoking. The electronic cigarette devices strongly appeal to a younger and new generation of smokers. It is being propagated as a smoking cessation product. Nonetheless, it turns out that children and young adults are seeing it as an entry point for cigarette smoking. A wide range of flavors and creative promotions and approaches using a wide variety of media channels hook youth into e-cigarettes. A 2015 survey by the World Health Organization indicates the narrow options of adult smokers shunning traditional combustible cigarettes. The survey showed that 77 percent of adult smokers have tried to quit, but only 4 percent succeeded for the addictive quality pushed smokers stick with.
Since its introduction in the Philippine market, the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems—more popularly known as e-cigarettes have become more and more popular among Filipinos, vape shops have proliferated in major cities in the country and brands of ENDS and e-juice are now being marketed in major convenience stores, the problem lies in the fact that consumers do not know what is being put into the e-cigarettes because it is completely unregulated. This product puts Filipinos in danger of falling into another public health death trap.
As cases of vaping-related lung injury climb for it contains some harmful chemicals found in traditional cigarettes, health officials are searching for solutions to stop the widespread occurrence gaining the attention of policymakers in both the local and national levels. Health policy officials and advocates are pushing for strictly regulating if not banning e-cigarette in the Philippines. Approaches considered are the regulation or removal of the flavors and imposing higher taxes on the product to further discourage people, especially minors to use it. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started to enforce rules about the sales, marketing, and production of these products. Numerous people support the idea of regulating e-cigarettes, like all other tobacco and nicotine products, to ensure the safety of the products and their use by Filipino consumers.
The Republic Act 11346 or the Tobacco Tax Law of 2019, has already added tax on tobacco and e-cigarettes as well as regulating its selling to minors, prohibiting its use in public places, and putting of graphic warnings on its labels. At the same time, President Rodrigo Duterte has also certified Senate Bill No. 1074 or the bill seeking to increase the taxes on alcohol products, heated tobacco products, and vapor products or e-cigarettes, as a priority measure. The President’s move was inspired by the urgent need to generate additional revenue to support the effective implementation of the Universal Health Care Act and to further protect the right to health of the people.
But for most health advocates, struggling to control the vaping epidemic and rising cases of severe vaping-related lung illness, banning the use and selling of e-cigarettes is the most effective way. Globally, 43 countries have already banned e-cigarettes on various levels. If we will not ban or at least regulate it properly, and let it proliferate, it will wipe out our efforts on tobacco decades ago, causing more deaths. Meanwhile, the American Medical Association recommended just to ban vaping products altogether except those approved by the FDA for tobacco cessation purposes and made available by prescription only. Well, in fact, there are no e-cigarettes yet in the United States that were approved as cessation devices. Unlike in the United Kingdom, it advocates e-cigarettes as a medicinal quit aid but bans it from workplaces and other public spaces. And the UK also controls how vaping devices are packaged and marketed.
Vapers are automatically against the total ban of the e-cigarettes. Vapers addressed, if they wanted to shut down the vape industry, the Department of Health should ban first the tobacco industry. In their perspective, it will be proper to just tightly regulate instead of banning it or else they will eventually return from their combustible smoking habit.
Major medical organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the American Medical Association, have stressed that anyone who vapes should stop. The long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are unknown, and the group is careful to point out that vaping does not come without risk. On the contrary, vapers claimed that vaping is a harm-reduction initiative, not a harm-elimination. Besides limiting access to less harmful products while leaving the deadly combustible products on commercial sites does not protect and support public health.
Second-hand smoking is not eliminated by vaping, as vaping releases carcinogenic emissions. Researchers found that the ability of lung cells to repair after exposure to e-cigarette smoke was significantly reduced. Besides, the smoke damaged the lungs, bladder, and heart in mice. In January 2018, results were published of lab and animal studies assessing how nitrosamines, present in e-cigarettes, can damage DNA. Research so far suggests that e-cigarettes might be less harmful than cigarettes when people who regularly smoke switch to them as a complete replacement. However, nicotine in any form is a highly addictive drug that might lead to everlasting addiction.
There should be a contrast between e-cigarettes used as smoking cessation tools and the two ongoing public health crises: non-smoking teenagers taking up vaping, and the series of serious lung illnesses linked to vaping called EVALI. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,409 EVALI cases in the United States. Fifty-two people have died, and more deaths are under investigation. A majority of patients reported using products containing THC, though some say they only vaped flavored e-liquids or nicotine products before falling ill. Recent case reports have linked vapes to a variety of health problems, including fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea.
In the midst of the many controversies about vaping’s health effects, there’s one thing public health experts agree on: E-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes. Even with the uncertainty about vaping’s long-term risks, researchers have found that vapers are exposed to fewer toxins and carcinogens than cigarette smokers.
Peter Grinspoon, MD, an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a board member of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, stated that prohibiting things does not gives the adequate answer, for nicotine is addictive and as result to that, people will always search for it rather than giving up nicotine. The better option would be to build a public health system that’s strong enough to combat all nicotine addiction in the long term. Policy changes and growing public awareness, not product ban.
While the number of smokers dwindled over time, it is the hope of the government that the shift to “healthier” alternatives, such as e-cigarettes, would eventually do the trick and put an end to cigarette smoking. At the same time, e-cigarette products must not be easily accessible or marketed to teens and adolescents, who are susceptible to the harms of e-cigarettes and nicotine.
A lot of Filipinos grew up thinking that smoking and following examples they see or perceive from adults as correct behavior are indeed okay. It is the lack of education about the effects of smoking whether it is combustible or electric cigarettes on their health that makes people continue to smoke. The youth are uninformed of the negative impacts of electronic and traditional cigarettes. They are only attracted to it because they are misinformed. It is very alarming that it affects the lengthiness of our lives. Ideally, people living in the modern world who seek to live longer while causing less stress on the economy should never try nicotine products or instead of waiting for a perfectly safe product to replace cigarettes, let’s allow smokers to choose the lesser of two evils.