Regulator to act on e-cigarettes

Posted on July 25, 2013

THE FOOD and Drug Administration (FDA) will resolve in a month whether to regulate or ban electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) after medical groups raised health concerns on its use.

Dr. Kenneth Y. Hartigan-Go, director-general of the FDA, said inputs presented in a public hearing yesterday as well as position papers of various stakeholders on e-cigarettes will be considered in the decision.

“The regulators will study these and come back to you in a period of one month’s time with a clear position of what we need to do as far as this item is concerned,” Mr. Go said.

In April 2013, the FDA issued an advisory that it has “not registered any electronic cigarette product and will not register them as health products.” The FDA also said in the advisory that e-cigarettes violate Republic Act (RA) 9211 or the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 since it promotes smoking among children and the youth.

In yesterday’s hearing, medical experts pointed out that there are no “middle ground” when it comes to health -- the e-cigarette is either fit or unsafe for consumption.

Dr. Maricar Limpin of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines said there are no available data as yet that e-cigarettes will prevent people from consuming the regular tobacco product.

“I think we need to do some researches on that aspect,” Ms. Limpin said. She added there is limited data on the “safety and efficacy as alternative to reduce the harmful effects of tobacco”.

Dino Abulencia, a chemical engineer, said during the public consultation that during his “initial runs” of five brands of nicotine juice, the vapors produced dietyhlene glycol which is supposedly not fit for human consumption since it is used as an “anti-freeze” compound.

For his part, Dr. Anthony C. Leachon, an internist-cardiologist and consultant of the Department of Health on noncommunicable diseases, said e-cigarettes started as early as 1963 when Herbert A. Gilbert patented a device described as “a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” that replaced the burning tobacco rolled on a paper.

The e-cigarette device was first introduced to the Chinese domestic market “as an aid for smoking cessation and replacement.” The first international patent was recorded in 2007.

E-cigarette users, on the other hand, said the device helped them quit smoking. For one, Joshua Alexander Espino said he is “one of the few success stories” where the use of e-cigarettes ended his dependency on nicotine.

Gilbert L. Mendoza of Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association said e-cigarette is “significantly less harmful” than tobacco based on experiences of users.

The public hearing stemmed from medical groups raising health issues on the use of e-cigarette. The World Health Organization, for their part, does not consider it as a means for smokers who are attempting to quit. -- M. F. E. Flores