SAN JUAN CITY has approved an ordinance calling for the separate regulation of e-cigarettes, prescribing a different set of rules than those governing conventional tobacco products, with city officials claiming that e-cigarettes are “safer.”

City Ordinance No. 41, Series of 2019, signed by Mayor Francisco Javier M. Zamora prohibits the use of e-cigarettes in places of worship, hospitals, health centers, public conveyances, government offices, and educational or recreational facilities.

E-cigarette smoking is allowed in places not listed among the prohibited areas, provided that the owners of the places designate areas for vaping.

According to the text of the ordinance, “studies have consistently concluded that e-cigarettes are significantly safer than conventional tobacco smoking.”

“This is largely attributable to the fact that conventional cigarettes release much more carcinogens and toxins from the combustion process that burns tobacco, whereas e-cigarette products forego the combustion process completely.”

It cited a report by the Royal College of Physicians in the UK which classified e-cigarettes as a tool for helping smokers quit. It also noted that the Public Health England and British Lung Foundation have called for the separate regulation of cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

The ordinance permits advertising at the point-of-sale and on the Internet, with restrictions against targeting minors. Buyers are also required to indicate that they are at least 25 years old.

A task force led by the Mayor will be created to oversee the implementation of the ordinance.

A first-offense violation warrants a P2,000 fine and 12 hours of community service. A second offense will merit a P3,000 fine and 18 hours’ community service and a third offense P5,000 and 24 hours, respectively.

The ordinance allows those not willing to contest the charges to pay a minimum administrative fine of P1,000 and render six hours of community service within 24 hours.

The ordinance takes effect 15 days after publication in at least two newspapers.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in November announced a ban on the use and importation of vaping products.

San Juan in 2016 passed an ordinance banning smoking in public places. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas