Two major e-cigarette consumer groups are taking Civil Service Commission Chairman Alicia Dela Rosa-Bala to task for allegedly trying to hijack the Philippine panel position to an international tobacco control treaty discussion stressing that it is “obviously beyond the expertise and jurisdiction of the CSC to do so.”
The Vapers Philippines and the PRO Vape consumer groups questioned the presence of Bala at the recent Conference of Parties 7 (COP 7) for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in New Delhi, India from Nov.7-12.
“According to fellow vapers in Europe, Chairman Bala as head of the Philippine delegation, supported a proposal that will allow an outright ban of e-cigarettes without prior consultation with the Philippine vaping community,” Mark Erana, spokesperson of the Vapers Philippines said.
“What is her expertise in calling for a ban on e-cigarettes? The civil service has a lot of problems that need fixing. Why is their chairperson spending a week in India talking about banning e-cigarettes,” Alan Marciano, secretary general of PRO Vape said.
In fact, the CSC has been a recipient of grants from the American-based Bloomberg Foundation in the amount of P14 million. “What is the purpose of this grant and how are they using it?” Marciano asked.
In the Bloomberg website www.tobaccocontrolgrants.org, it was disclosed that the CSC received a grant of USD 104,000 in Nov, 2014 from the foundation and another USD 183,695 in February this year supposedly to protect the bureaucracy from tobacco industry interference.
“E-cigarettes are different from regular cigarettes and these new products are a lot less dangerous to the health of consumers. In fact, we are encouraging smokers to switch to reduce their chances of getting smoking-related sickness,” Erana said.
Erana said e-cigarettes have been endorsed by the United Kingdom government as 95 percent safer than cigarettes. They are widely available in England, the USA and the EU leading millions of smokers to quit cigarettes for good.
The Public Health England which includes the Cancer Research UK, the British Lung Foundation and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies among others found that “the health risks posed by e-cigarettes are relatively small by comparison(to regular cigarettes).”
Public Health England also noted that “international peer-reviewed evidence indicates that the risk to the health of bystanders from exposure to e-cigarettes vapour is extremely low.” It recommends that regulation including policy on public use of e-cigarettes should make a clear distinctions between smoking and vaping and treat them differently.”
“We are surprised why even our Department of Health does not see this obvious and glaring distinction in proposing a public use ban on e-cigarettes similar to that of regular cigarettes. Public Health England has said they should be treated differently. It is alarming to note that our Health officials are so uniformed with the latest scientific research findings,” Erana said.
“There are so many credible scientific studies out there that show e-cigarettes have 90-95% less of the toxins found in cigarette smoke. Why did CSC Chair Bala choose to ignore them? And what is her claim to expertise in the field of science?” Marciano asked.
“That is not the job, we, the taxpayers are paying her to do. She owes all of us an explanation,” Marciano added.
Erana and Marciano said this is something that the Ombudsman should look into and the Commission on Audit in terms of how those Bloomberg grants where used.