Members of the vaping community are calling out Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial for what they say are misleading statements about safe alternatives to cigarette smoking.

“It is both alarming and disappointing to hear an experienced physician and the highest health official of the land issue statements that directly contradict scientific evidence showing e-cigarettes are overwhelmingly less harmful than conventional cigarettes and can help smokers quit,” said Tom Pinlac, President of The Vapers Philippines.

“Instead of adding to the fear mongering, inaccurate information and propaganda on e-cigarettes, the Health Secretary should read the numerous independent studies supported by reputable organizations and published in respected scientific journals that show e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes and are viable smoking cessation aids,” said Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA).

Speaking before students of Felipe G. Calderon High School in Tondo on June 14, 2017 as part of the country’s observance of June as “National No Smoking Month”, Ubial said, “We released an advisory from the Food and Drug Administration that the products and components used in vape are still tobacco. So it still contains the 7,000 dangerous chemicals that are found in cigarettes.”

Ubial said groups promoting e-cigarettes are trying to mislead the public by marketing these as safe alternatives to cigarette smoking. “They say that [e-cigarettes] are a safer alternative but we in the health sector say there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. So even if it has a small amount of tobacco, it is still not safe.”

According to Pinlac, Ubial blindly follows the World Health Organization’s opposition to tobacco harm reduction without even considering the growing body of evidence supporting e-cigarettes as a less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes. “The WHO believes that the only way to reduce smoking is for smokers to ‘quit or die’, and is therefore highly skeptical of the potential for new technologies, such as e-cigarettes, to reduce smoking-related harms. Secretary Ubial has swallowed the WHO’s misguided position hook, line and sinker.”

E-cigarettes around 95 percent less harmful than tobacco

An expert independent evidence review by Public Health England published in August 2015 concluded that e-cigarettes are around 95 percent less harmful than smoking and that e-cigarettes may be contributing to falling smoking rates among adults and young people in the UK.

The Public Health England review found that almost all of the 2.6 million adults using e-cigarettes in Great Britain are current or ex-smokers, most of whom are using the devices to help them quit smoking or to prevent them going back to cigarettes. It also provides reassurance that very few adults and young people who have never smoked are becoming regular e-cigarette users (less than 1% in each group). Public Health England is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the UK Department of Health.

E-cigarettes can help smokers quit

A new report released in April 2016 by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) entitled “Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction” concluded that e-cigarettes are likely to be beneficial to UK public health. Smokers can therefore be reassured and encouraged to use them, and the public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking. The RCP is the leading professional membership body for physicians in the UK and internationally.

DOH should look at the evidence

“E-cigarettes are now part of the comprehensive tobacco control program of several countries where they are viewed as a viable smoking cessation tool for smokers who want to quit. We hope that the Department of Health considers the current available evidence on e-cigarettes, which can help inform the government’s anti-smoking policies,” said Pinlac.

“Smokers who find it hard to quit, are looking for a safer alternative, and have found one in vaping should be given access to accurate information from the DOH and other government agencies,” said Dulay. “These agencies should protect smokers who are trying to quit and provide them with clear, accurate messages on e-cigarettes rather than confusing them with misleading information. Let us protect minors and non-smokers from the hazards of smoking while providing smokers with products and information that can help them reduce the harm caused by smoking and eventually quit smoking.”