(Photo from Pixabay)

The Department of Education (DepEd) expressed concern about the health of two million students in elementary education if they were to pass the Vaporized Nicotine Products Regulation Act (also known as the “vape bill” is passed into law.

DepEd in a press release published on March 17, 2014, in the School Year (SY) 2020-21, at the very least, 870,000 learners in the primary education sector were aged 18 or older.

The system for information at DepEd also indicated that close to 1.1 million students at Senior High School (SHS) were aged between 18 and 20 years old.

“This is the number of learners who will be legally permitted to sell harmful products after the bill is passed,” DepEd said.

Particularly, DepEd expressed concern that the vaping bill could reduce the age limit for access by 21- 18 years old.

“We in the schools we teach students that the brain part in charge of rational decision-making is not fully developed until the age of their mid-twenties,” DepEd said.

“Before the age of 18, young people are extremely susceptible to engaging in risky behaviors like substance consumption or abuse,” The agency said.

As per Republic Act No. 11467 and Executive Order No. 106, both signed by President Duterte in 2020, the access to electronic nicotine/non-nicotine delivery systems, heated tobacco products, and other novel tobacco items is currently set at 21 years old.

“If there are any attempts to modify the existing laws, it must be to expand the age limit for access to harmful products, not reduce the age,” DepEd stressed.

DepEd added that students might have better access to Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) or Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENNDS), also known as electronic cigarettes or “vapes,” as the bill also allows online sales, and also allows flavors that are not pure tobacco as well as menthol only two flavors that are currently permitted by law.

‘Harmful products’

In addition, DepEd also noted that the bill is designed to “reduce the harms caused by smoking cigarettes.”

The latter, DepEd declared, was “in opposition” to the assertion by the World Health Organization (WHO) that “ENDS are invariably detrimental.”

Children are attracted to sweets and advertisements on social media platforms as one of the strategies employed by tobacco companies and other industries to draw younger people; DepEd said this is “of serious concern” for them.

A study by the Philippine Pediatric Society among Grades 7-9 DepEd pupils found the following: 6.7 percent “have attempted and have been currently using electronic cigarettes.”

The same research found that the top motives for people to use e-cigarettes were accessibility to the internet at 32 percent, a variety of flavors with 22 percent also the perception that vaping is more secure than tobacco, which is 17 percent.

DepEd has also pointed out that the bill shifts the responsibility for regulating items from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“We think that the FDA is the most appropriate to control harmful substances in line with the latest research and medical studies currently reflected in RA11467,” DepEd added.

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