HEALTH advocates warned against a proposed ordinance in or e-cigarette use, and rejected claims that the tobacco alternatives are safer.

HealthJustice Philippines and the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) said the draft ordinance appears to accept the vaping industry’s claims that its products are “far less harmful” than traditional tobacco products.

“There is no scientific evidence to support claims that e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are safe… no public health authority has claimed that these products are safe. The public and public servants in a position to protect public health must be fully apprised of the health risks inherent to vaping,” Dr. Edgardo Ulysses N. Dorotheo, SEATCA Executive Director, said in a statement.

The unnumbered draft ordinance calls the category of vaping products “vapor and heated tobacco products (VHTPs)” and claimed a “fundamental difference” between combustible and non-combustible products warranting separate regulation from traditional tobacco products.

The ordinance also cited the proliferation of “illicit or non-compliant VHTPs” as a missed opportunity for greater tax collection.

Other issues with the ordinance raised by the health groups were the regulation of designate smoking areas, with the ordinance requiring a designated vaping area (DVA) in an open space or a room with proper ventilation. The DVA is to be separate from the area designated for the consumption of traditional tobacco products.

Mary Ann Fernandez-Mendoza, President of HealthJustice, alleged that the tobacco industry is “brainwashing” the public into accepting the safety of e-cigarettes.

“The vaping industry is just the tobacco industry in different clothes. Because it is undisputed that smoking traditional cigarettes is a public health hazard, the tobacco industry would now have us believe that vaping or smoking e-cigarettes is safe. It is not. It’s just another form of addiction and the tobacco industry’s new source of income,” she said.

HealthJustice cited a recent case of a US vaping death in the state of Illinois due to lung disease, as well as other deaths caused by e-cigarette explosions and contaminated “juice” refills that led to death by poisoning.

The US Centers for Disease Control is currently investigating as many as 215 deaths linked to e-cigarettes, HealthJustice said.

“Places allowed for vaping are too limited. This is contrary to the FDA 2019-0007. It is stated there that, smoking or vaping should be prohibited in public places as enumerated in EO 26. In places where smoking is not allowed, vaping should not also be allowed,” Mr. Benedict G. Nisperos, HealthJustice Legal Consultant told BusinessWorld.

He also said that the ordinance is limiting the coverage of the non-smoking areas specified within the prohibition.

The Department of Health issued Administrative Order 2019-0007 or the Revised Rules on Electronic Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Delivery System stated that designated vaping areas should follow the same guidelines and requirements set for designated smoking areas (DSA) issued by Executive Order 26 (EO) or the Providing for the Establishment of Smoke-Free Environments in Public and Enclosed Places.

The EO stated that “there shall be no opening that will allow air to escape from the DSA to the smoke-free area of the building or conveyance, except for a single door equipped with an automatic door closer; provided the DSA is not located in an open space, such door shall open directly towards a Non-smoking Buffer Zone (Buffer Zone) as defined in this Order.”

However, the city ordinance stated that vaping areas “may be in an open space or separate area with proper ventilation, but shall not be located within the same room that has been designated as a smoking area.”

The EO also stated that the ventilation of the smoking area should not be connected to the rest of the ventilation system of the structure given that an open space or a buffer zone is not available.

Executive Director Ulysses Dorotheo of the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance said that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims that e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are safe.

“The public and public servants in a position to protect public health must be fully apprised of the risks inherent to vaping,” she added.