The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking to severely restrict the availability of electronic cigarette products to adults based on outdated and scientifically flawed opinions that disregard the scientific evidence supporting the reduced harm of such products.
This was the scathing criticism leveled against the FDA in a position paper released by the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA), an alliance of consumer organizations from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines and Thailand. CAPHRA released the position paper to support the stand of The Vapers Philippines and the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA), which are advocating for fair and reasonable regulation of e-cigarettes or “vapes” in the country.
The FDA has expressed concern that safer nicotine products such as e-cigarettes may serve as a “gateway” to smoking among the youth and that e-cigarette use damages cardiovascular health. The agency also claims that the harm caused by secondhand e-cigarette vapor is the same as that from secondhand combustible tobacco smoke, nicotine is detrimental to the developing brain, and e-cigarettes should have an age restriction of 25 or older while the combustible tobacco age restriction remains at 18 or older.
In its position paper, CAPHRA addressed the issues raised by the FDA by presenting peer-reviewed scientific evidence that justifies the rationale for risk-proportionate regulation of e-cigarette products in the Philippines:
“The data do not show that there is an ‘epidemic’ of vaping among young people. What the data reveal is that youth who vape are smokers who have switched to vaping, not the other way around,” said Dr. Linda Bauld, lead researcher for the Cancer Research Council and Public Health England on the use of e-cigarettes in youth and by pregnant women. Bauld has repeatedly stated that youth and pregnant women are more inclined to switch to vaping from smoking and not the other way around. She also stressed that there is no evidence that the nicotine in e-cigarettes has the same detrimental effect on pregnant mothers and their children as does smoking during pregnancy.
A recent study by researchers from the University of Southern California linked e-cigarette use to a higher risk of stroke and heart attack. Experts have criticized the study’s major flaws in methodology and reporting. “This study does not establish a causal relationship between heart attacks and the use of e-cigarettes. Rather it shows that at the point they were surveyed people who smoked and/or vaped were more likely to have had a heart attack in their lifetime,” according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a public health charity in the UK established by the Royal College of Physicians to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco.
ASH pointed out that the study was not able to determine when the heart attack took place, whether it followed or preceded use of an e-cigarette. “It is therefore inaccurate to say this research shows that vaping leads to an increased risk of a heart attack. The link between tobacco smoking and heart attacks is well established.”
A five-year study by Dr. Riccardo Polosa in Italy found that nonsmokers who vaped showed no increases in markers of cardiovascular risk, lung function and/or symptoms of respiratory disease.
“Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes”, a report by the US National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine stated, “There is insufficient evidence that e-cigarette use is associated with long-term changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiac geometry and function.”
A study by the US Department of Health and Human Services evaluated potential exposure to chemicals associated with vaping of employees of a vape shop. It concluded that there are no quantifiable harms from secondhand and thirdhand vapor, and there is no additional harm from vaping in those who have been exposed to its vapor.
In many countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, the age for prescribing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) begins as early as 12 years old. This is based on a 2010 recommendation from the American Cancer Society, which stated “that youth (ages 12-18) be included in smoking cessation initiatives, recognizing that support and encouragement are important for this age group in particular.”
According to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), “Tobacco contains nicotine along with many other chemicals, but nicotine by itself is fairly harmless. Nicotine, in and of itself, outside of combustible tobacco, is no more addictive than caffeine.”