'I will ban it': Philippine leader cracks down on e-cigarettes

Duterte's move follows country's first case of lung disease linked to vaping, as more nations consider e-cigarette bans.

    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has described e-cigarettes as 'toxic' and has promised to arrest anyone caught using them in public [File: Daniel Becerril/Reuters]
    Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has described e-cigarettes as 'toxic' and has promised to arrest anyone caught using them in public [File: Daniel Becerril/Reuters]

    The Philippines will outlaw the use and importation of e-cigarettes and arrest anyone using them, its president has said, joining a growing number of nations moving to ban the devices, which have been linked to deaths and addiction.

    President Rodrigo Duterte announced the order during a late-night news conference on Tuesday after being asked about a Department of Health report confirming the first case of lung injury related to vaping in the country.

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    "I will ban it. The use and importation. You know why? Because it is toxic and government has the power to issue measures to protect public health and public interest," said Duterte, who has also banned smoking cigarettes in public.

    He also directed law enforcers to arrest anybody caught vaping in public.

    Duterte, 74, was himself once a heavy smoker but quit when he was diagnosed as suffering from Buerger's disease, which can cause blockages in blood vessels.

    "This vaping, they say it is electronic. Don't give me that ... Better stop it, I will order your arrest if you do it in a room ... That is like smoking. You contaminate people," he said.

    Duterte's pronouncement is unexpected, as Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said last month that a ban on e-cigarettes is unlikely but that they may be slapped with higher taxes.

    The ban could curb the expansion plans of companies such as US e-cigarette maker Juul Labs, which has been launching its products in international markets, including the Philippines, amid a widening crackdown on vaping at home.

    The world's vaping industry, which has seen rapid growth, has faced a growing public backlash over concerns of increased use by young people.

    India, which has the second-largest population of adult smokers in the world, banned the sale of e-cigarettes in September as it warned of a vaping "epidemic" among young people.

    Public health officials in the US recommended not using e-cigarettes after several deaths and hundreds of cases of illnesses linked to e-cigarette use were reported.

    The global market for e-cigarettes was worth $15.7bn in 2018, data from Euromonitor International showed, and is projected to more than double to $40bn in 2023.

    Malaysia's health ministry has also said it wants to club e-cigarettes and vaporisers together with tobacco products under a single law that would prohibit their promotion and advertising, usage in public areas and use by minors.

    SOURCE: News agencies