Aggressive marketing of vapes, e-cigs to youth and children alarms law group
Dr. Winston Tiwaquen, most commonly known as Dr. Kilimanguru with over 3.2 million followers on social media application TikTok, said in a radio interview on Saturday night that vapes and e-cigarettes are not healthier alternatives to regular cigarettes.
“Marami kasi ang nagsasabi na ang vape, ito ang savior, ito yung will save you from the negative effects of smoking kasi nga daw mas safe. Pero kasi, there have been studies nga of vape-associated lung injuries (There are those who claim that vape is a savior and will save you from the negative effects of smoking because it is safer. But there have been reports of vape-associated lung injuries),” said the physician.
Tiwaquen rose to fame in the online medical community as Dr. Kilimanguru by debunking health and medical myths online and by urging his followers to seek scientific medical advice, instead of relying on hearsay.
“May mga chemicals [sa] vape that are not safe (There are chemicals in vapes that are not safe),” Tiwaquen said. “Sa FDA (Food and Drug Authority), ang mga e-cigarettes ay hindi approved bilang isang method para mag-quit sa smoking. Meron namang approved medications actually para tulungan ang isang individual na mag-quit ng smoking (FDA has not approved e-cigarettes as a method for smoking cessation. There are approved medications to help an individual quit smoking),” the doctor advised.
“Sa four years na pagva-vape mo, pwedeng wala kang nararamdaman. You’ll never know 20 years from now or 30 years from now (In your four years of vaping, even if you do not feel anything, you’ll never know 20 years from now or 30 years from now),” the doctor warned. “The idea is not to shift. The idea really is quitting, stopping completely inhaling anything foreign to the body,” Tiwaquen urged.
Advertising targeted to children, youth
ImagineLaw, a public interest law organization, also reported during the same interview that vape and e-cigarette companies are deliberately targeting young people as their primary market.
“Ngayong panahon ng pandemya, nakikita nating mas umiigting ang advertising [ng mga vape at e-cigarette companies] online (Advertising of vape and e-cigarette companies online has intensified due to the pandemic),” said Atty. Anna Bueno, policy associate of the said law group.
ImagineLaw expressed alarm over the use of social media influencers to get young people to use vape and e-cigarettes. “[May] preliminary data tayo na paggamit [ng vape and e-cigarette companies] ng mga social media influencers to promote these products…Napaka-engaging ng [social media] content na ‘yun lalo na sa mga kabataan so it makes it very irresistible at mukha siyang pa-cool pero harmful naman (We have preliminary data that vape and e-cigarette companies are using social media influencers to promote their products through engaging content that are irresistible to young people. They seem cool, but they are harmful),” Bueno reported.
“Nakikita natin napakaraming flavors [ng vape at e-cigarettes]: chocolate, mango, watermelon, strawberry… na matamis at lasang kendi. Sino ba ang madalas o mahilig sa kendi at sa matatamis, ‘di ba ang mga kabataan din natin? So that’s one very clear proof that this is targeted to children, ‘yung advertising ng mga vapes at e-cigarettes (We’ve seen a lot of vape and e-cigarette flavors: chocolate, mango, watermelon, strawberry that are sweet and resemble candy that are attractive to children. That’s one clear proof that vape and e-cigarette advertising are targeted to children),” she explained.
Bueno also added that existing methods in age verification online–such as the use of mere “yes” or “no” questions–are unreliable and do not definitely indicate that only persons aged 21 years old and above may access and purchase these products, thus justifying a comprehensive ban on advertising online. In social media, age verification may not even be required and may be impossible to enforce properly.
“Dahil sa kawalan ng magandang legal framework para i-regulate yung pag-benta ng vapes at e-cigarettes online, napakadali ng access [ng mga kabataan] ngayon at yun ang dapat pagtuunan ng pansin ng ating mga mambabatas (We currently lack sufficient legal framework to regulate the sale of vapes and e-cigarettes online, that’s why children have easy access to them. This should be addressed by our lawmakers),” she urged.
Pending bills in Congress, such as House Bill 9007 and Senate Bill 2239, roll back existing protections against harms brought by vapes and e-cigarettes. At present, the use and purchase of these products are restricted to persons aged 21 years old and above, but the bills set this back to 18 years old, which may increase youth initiation to these products. Among others, the bills also remove the ban on flavorings set by Republic Act No. 11467 that further increases excise taxes on alcohol and e-cigarettes.