Press Release
December 16, 2021

Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Explanation of NO vote
on SB 2239 or the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act

Dear colleagues, during the deliberation of the Sin Tax Bill around two years ago, HTPs (heated tobacco products) and vapes were included. No one questioned why they were included, because everyone accepted. I don't recall. Everyone accepted from my recollection that they accepted that they are a sin product. They are harmful products. There was no discussion on that, in fact, the question was, how harmful are they, and how beneficial can they be? And that is why we did not ban. We did not ban it because it was accepted that we will allow these products, but we will regulate. Because there could be potential dangers, especially to the youth, and to the old.

And so we decided, under the Sin Tax Law, that the minimum age would be 21 years old; we limit the flavors because studies show that what attracts the youth to try vaping is the flavors. So we limited it to Plain Tobacco and Plain Menthol. And we decided that rightfully, the jurisdiction would be with the FDA. The FDA has clearly, under its laws that we also passed some 9 years ago, I believe, it's any product. It could be food, it could be drugs, it could be cosmetics, devices, anything that may have an effect on health and would require regulation.

So would that not include the sin products? Whether they're alcohol or an alternative to smoking that could be better? That studies might show in the future are great? Should it not be regulated, mind you, dear colleagues, we never banned, in the Sin Tax Law, nor did we ban in this case, e-cig regulation. All we are saying is that we will regulate. That was the condition under the Sin Tax Law.

And may I also point out that, upon the request of members of Congress that wanted a transition period, we granted 36 months. That transition period doesn't end until May. So this law has not even been implemented. They are currently unregulated, anything can be sold, your honors. So that is where we are.

And here, today, we witness history.

Senate Bill No. 2239 reverses the protective measures that we as a Congress, as a Senate put in. Why would we reverse it, your honors? No one says we cannot sell these products, which a lot of you choose to believe may be helpful. And I have made it very clear that it is possible that these products will help a lot of people change and shift. It is possible it could save lives. We don't know for sure but in the meantime, we are allowing it to be sold. Pwedeng ibenta. What would the FDA have done? The FDA would have done similar to what is done in the US - regulate. Regulate, that is all the intervention that I have tried to push from the beginning.

And it hurts me deeply that I have not been able to convince my colleagues that simply by regulating and allowing the FDA to do its job is not good enough for the Senate. It hurts me that after all these years...  I am unable to obviously communicate that well. Because what I hear from our colleagues, until the very end, is we want to give this product a chance to save lives, to bring people away from smoking. Well, that is exactly what this bill would have allowed to do with supervision of the FDA.

As I have said during interpellation and I want it written in my explanatory note, and I will repeat it, in the US, 55,000 flavors were turned down because they did not pass, they did not meet the scrutiny of public health. And here we are, this Senate has allowed a provision in this bill that will now turn over that duty to the Department of Trade and Industry. What business does the Department of Trade and Industry have to regulate health? To ensure that the flavors and scents of those products that will be inhaled now by anyone that is 18 years and one day old? What duty does DTI have, and experience, and professionalism, in ensuring that your children will not be inhaling products that the US has declined, 55,000 flavors were declined in the US. On that note, they also approved for pre-market many other flavors. But here we are, in this Senate, which I have always been proud of, giving the go signal, and saying that DTI can determine the health [effects] of these products.

Your honors, as I read into the definition of products that are regulated by FDA, it's anything that could affect the health. Therefore, insect repellent is regulated by the FDA. You just put it on your skin. Lotion is regulated by the FDA. Perfume that you spray in the air, you don't even put it on your skin but you spray it on the air and you inhale it, sometimes you put it on your skin, regulated by FDA. Sunblock, regulated by FDA. They all have potential to do much good but they may have side effects, they may have harms. Just like e-cigs and vapes, dear colleagues. Just like e-cigs and vapes. That's why we regulate. And last point, essential oils that many of you or your wives use. Essential oils that you inhale or put here, you dab, you inhale. All regulated by the FDA.

By saying yes to this measure, our colleagues would like to believe that they are saying yes to regulating an industry, and that is correct. I would also say yes for that reason. But resoundingly, this Senate said no to the amendments that this humble representation made that would simply regulate the products and ensure that they are not substantial essential oils, substantial lotion, substantial sunblock. That's the same principle. I never said no.

Your wives, your parents, your adult children, can still use these products and could have been under the safety guide of the FDA. But no, we are now reinventing the roles of our government agencies. In grade school, I remember and I also oversee the schooling of my young kids. Grade school students are taught, what is the role of government, of the President, of Congress, of every government agency, of DOH, of DTI, of DepEd? So are we saying that we rewrote the definition of the role of the Department of Trade? Because anywhere I look, from the mandate of DTI, on its very own website, in the budget deliberation, their objective is to promote trade and industry. They are not the vanguards of health. They are not standing there to ensure that the e-cig and vape products are the safe ones. There would be, as your honors have said, you want to observe and see down the road how safe these products are. Sure, but let's do it now. And let's allow those products that at least comply with the minimum standards set by the FDA to be the ones to proceed. But you have decided, your honors.

And I submit that yes, regulation is necessary, but that regulation should have included very simple amendments, allow the 21 year old age to stand because the brain is still developing, pediatricians tell us, still at least the age of 25. But this Senate said, "No, we want them to be able to access this as early as 18."

Second, flavors, I already said it is the number one reason why these young kids start experimenting with vapes. We had proposed to stick to the 2 flavors and allow FDA to agree to other flavors that it deems fit. The honorable sponsor said no to that as well.

And finally for the FDA, this Senate has resoundingly said no FDA regulation.

I am beyond disappointed, I am beyond saddened that the products out there will no longer have at least the regulatory stamp... maybe not approval, but at least compliance that certain chemicals are not in there, chemical combinations at a high level of heat, which is what we are talking about have been scrutinized. I regret that this is the decision of the Senate. And I submit that the reason for my 'No' vote stands. And I will continue to work in any possible way that I can. But the sad reality is, when Congress speaks, we know that we are limited to the laws that we pass and we cannot work beyond that and because this is a resounding decision of this Senate, then I disassociate myself from this decision.

Thank you, Mr. President and dear colleagues.

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