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A consumer organization has urged Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to state the position of the Philippine government on smoke-free nicotine products such as electronic cigarettes, heat-not-burn tobacco products and snus ahead of a global meeting in November 2020.

The Vapers Philippines sent a letter to Dominguez as the government prepares its position on ENDS or electronic nicotine delivery systems preparatory to the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) which will be held in The Hague, Netherlands.

"As the government is sending delegates to COP9 to represent the electorate, and as consumers' rights to use less harmful products to switch from smoking remain under tremendous threat from FCTC's continuing failure to address scientific evidence, democratic processes and human rights, we respectfully request that you share with us the details of our nation's position," The Vapers PH said in the letter.

The group said that while the FCTC has a mandate to pursue harm reduction as a core tobacco control policy, it has singularly failed to acknowledge or implement this over the past 18 years.

It said scientific studies show that smoke-free nicotine products are much less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes because they do not produce smoke.  She said that some governments erroneously claim that nicotine is carcinogenic.  "We hope the Department of Finance does not contribute to this falsehood," she said.

This is because it has been known for decades that tar, and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke, cause the death and disease associated with smoking, and not nicotine.  Research has proven that nicotine, while usually mildly addictive in the same way as caffeine, is not a health issue.  

The letter stated that even WHO accepts this fact, as demonstrated by its position on the use of nicotine patches, gums and sprays and other pharmaceutical 'smoking cessation' products which it has announced are safe for long-term use by smokers looking to switch to less harmful forms of nicotine consumption.

"Nicotine is not the enemy—it is smoke, and tar and the other by-products of combustion.  Yet this government continues to permit the sale and use of the obviously most dangerous nicotine product (smoking cigarettes) alongside certain alternative nicotine products while refusing to acknowledge the benefits of allowing smokers to switch to other novel nicotine products that are now known to be both far safer and also more effective in aiding smokers to stop using combustible tobacco," it said.

Public Health England's annual reviews of all available evidence have consistently concluded that e-cigarettes are around 95-percent less harmful than smoking.

The Vapers PH asked Dominguez, representing the Cabinet, to consider allowing Filipino citizens to choose non-pharmaceutical, non-combustible interventions that provide users with the nicotine they enjoy without the smoke and tar, such as e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn tobacco products and snus which have been chosen and used by millions of consumers worldwide to easily, effectively and permanently switch from smoking combustible tobacco.

A February 2019 clinical trial by UK's National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) found that e-cigarette was twice as effective as nicotine replacement treatments such as patches and gum at helping smokers quit.

"As a responsible consumer organization, we call on your delegates to COP9 to deplore the policy of FCTC to make these sessions closed-door, unaccountable and unreported, representing only vested interests whose actions have thus far impeded the rights of citizens and voters to choose for themselves to switch to safer alternatives to deadly smoking," the group said.

"Delegates to COP9 should be representing the rights and aspirations of the citizens whose taxes are paying for their attendance, who expect them to speak on their behalf, acknowledge the science underpinning the harm reduction benefits of ENDS, and maintain democratic principles," the group said.

Vapers PH said Filipino consumers and voters have the right to make choices that help them avoid adverse health outcomes and smokers have the right to access less harmful nicotine products as alternatives to smoking.  "We ask you to take account of this right when making your submission to COP9," they said in the letter.

The Vapers PH also sent similar letters to the secretaries of the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Department of Tourism (DOT).


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