THE HOUSE of Representatives has approved on third and final reading a bill that proposes to regulate e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products, in the face of opposition from some legislators over the deletion of health safeguards.

Voting 192 to 34 with four abstentions, legislators approved House Bill 9007, or the proposed Non- Combustible Nicotine Delivery Systems Regulation Act. The bill sets regulations for the manufacture, use, sale, packaging, distribution, advertisement, and promotion of electronic nicotine and non-nicotine delivery systems (ENDS/ENNDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

If signed, the bill will also set product standards for ENDS/ENNDS which will be determined by the Department of Trade and Industry in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It will also outline standards for HTPs as identified by the DTI in consultation with the Inter-Agency Committee on Tobacco.

Penalties for noncompliance are capped at P500,000 for a first offense and P750,000 for a second offense. Third offenses warrant a fine of more than P1 million or imprisonment of up to five years.

The bill will also lower the minimum age for persons allowed to purchase from 21 years to 18 years.

The bill will allow the online sale and advertisement of ENDS/ENNDS and HTPs as long as the website or e-commerce platform restricts sales to those under 18.

The head of the House health committee opposed the passage of HB 9007, claiming that the health safeguards are too lax.

Quezon Rep. Angelina DL Tan said in explaining her No vote that “I cannot in any manner support House Bill No. 9007… as it pretends to be a health measure for all when if in fact gives primordial consideration to trade and commercial interests of the few.”

She added that the bill runs afoul of various health laws since it does not require warnings on the possible hazards of ENDS/ENDDS and HTP use.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon said in explaining his No vote that HB 9007 has put some distance on its original intent as a health measure and lacks teeth in denying young people access to such products.

“This bill has turned into a trade and industry measure rather than a health measure as we started out. This bill does not protect the youth from the harm of END/ENNDS abuse addiction and as well as the vapes and HTPs because of the permissiveness of the online trading and advertising rules, which IT experts said cannot guarantee the protection of the youth from access,” he said.

Agusan del Norte Rep. Lawrence H. Fortun said that the bill also deleted crucial provisions such as designating the FDA as the regulatory agency for e-cigarettes and prohibition of advertising methods attractive to children. — Gillian M. Cortez