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Vaping groups describe FDA’s receipt of foreign money as ‘shameful’

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Vaping groups have described as “shameful and scandalous” the Philippine Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) admission that it received foreign grants from American business interest groups while in the process of drafting regulation on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

“This is shameful and scandalous. A Philippine regulatory body receiving money from American businessmen to draft a set of regulation they cannot even get passed in their own country,” said Dr. Lorenzo Mata Jr., president of Quit For Good—a group that advocates sustainable ways to quit the smoking habit.

“Tobacco prohibition did not work in the US and they want it imposed in the country with over 2 million Filipinos depended on tobacco for their livelihood,” Mata said.

Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA) said certain provisions of the guidelines “are almost impossible to comply with.” He added that “small players will be driven out of business and new players will find it extremely difficult to enter the sector.”

“The vaping industry is being treated unfairly. We are not the enemy here. Combustible cigarettes that bring 88,000 deaths per year are our common enemy. Why is vaping treated worse than smoking?” he said.

Earlier, a ranking FDA official admitted that the agency received grants from foreign anti-tobacco advocates The Union and Bloomberg Initiative when confronted by Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing and Deputy Speaker and Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano during a public consultation on the guidelines. 

Dr. Mata said they participated in the FDA public consultation “hoping for a robust and substantive discussion on science not fiction. We were treated to a farcical consultation, a mere tick-the-box exercise for the sake of simply holding one.”

He said there is “obviously a conflict of interest here. We are therefore constrained to believe that the industry is unfairly being treated by FDA in this regard, the reason now for these almost impossible guidelines.” 

Dr. Mata said “it’s a sorry state for an industry that is trying to provide 16 Million Filipino smokers a viable alternative so they can be freed from the clutches of the deadliest product in the market, combustible tobacco.”

He stressed that science should be the basis of regulation and not political or ideological agenda noting the abundance of curated and peer-reviewed studies available from other countries. 

“We have been advising the FDA that regulation should be based on the risk profile of products. The greater the risk to one’s health, the stricter the regulation, not the other way around. The World Health Organization has in fact conceded before the Philippine Congress that e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than cigarettes. So why regulate them the same as cigarettes?” he said.

Citing an example, Dr. Mata said “he reviewed the pre-application documentary evaluation (PADE) provision and I am sorry to say that it is not a different pathway as the FDA claims it to be for HTPs and Vapor Products. This is exactly the same process a drug or a medical product would go through. These products are not pharmaceutical products or anything close to it. So PADE should not be applied to HTPs or Vapor products.”

Dulay urged the FDA to take into consideration the welfare of the stakeholders. “What about the 1 million Filipino vape users who found it hard to quit cigarettes and have switched to what the growing evidences says is the better alternative? Does the FDA want them to go back to smoking cigarettes?”

“Everyone here is asking for fairness and for the protection of the interest of everyone concerned, especially for those whom these products were intended for,” Dr. Mata said.

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