JUUL Labs, Inc. Philippines is seeking the Department of Finance’s (DoF) help to clarify if the importation of vapor products is still banned in the country, after the recently signed sin tax law “legitimizes” such goods.

In a letter addressed to the Finance chief, Mario T. Zinampan, Juul’s senior director for government affairs, said the company is seeking the department’s assistance to allow and assist the company to proceed with its importation.

Sought for comment, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez said in a Viber message “I think they should write the Executive Secretary for clarification.”

Juul has experienced delays in the importation of its vapor products after President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s remarks late last year calling for a ban on the importation of vapor products and its use in public areas, according to the letter that the DoF cited in a press release yesterday.

The department said in his letter, Mr. Zinampan sought the assistance of the department in allowing Juul to proceed with its importations, as he pointed out that Republic Act No. 11346, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2020, “legitimizes vapor products in the Philippines.”

The DoF said Juul also requested to meet with Mr. Dominguez “to clarify the issue.”

Following Mr. Duterte’s verbal order, the Bureau of Customs had instructured all ports to block imported vapor products and all related items.

In a statement last month, Juul had said that it would stop producing and selling flavored vaping products in the country following the passage of the law, which banned their production while imposing higher taxes on alcohol and electronic cigarettes.

Mr. Zinampan also committed to stop the sale of Juul pods through its Philippine e-commerce site, while committing to support the upcoming Food and Drug Administration flavor policy in the Philippines and related regulations.

Mr. Duterte signed R.A. 11467 on Jan. 22, increasing the excise taxes on alcoholic products and e-cigarettes, including vapor products, while limiting their sale to those at least 21 years old.

The measure also prohibits the manufacturing, importation, sale, distribution and advertising of flavorings in the vapor products.

Executive Secretary Salvador S. Medialdea did not immediately respond when asked to comment on the matter.

Under the law, vapor products with salt nicotine will be imposed an excise tax of P37 per milliliter this year and gradually increase until it reaches P52 in 2023. Vapor products with conventional nicotine will be taxed P45 per 10 milliliter in 2020, and increased by P5 annually until it reaches P60 in 2023.

The rates will be increased by five percent every year starting Jan. 1, 2024. — Beatrice M. Laforga