The use and importation of electronic cigarettes will soon be outlawed in the Philippines, according to President Rodrigo Duterte. He criticised vaping devices at a press conference on 19 November – four days after Filipino health regulators saw their first case of vape-associated lung injury – writes Paolo Zialcita for NPR.
The Philippines’ Department of Health announced on Friday 15 November that a 16-year-old girl had been hospitalised in late October, requiring intensive care. The teenager was later diagnosed with e-cigarette-associated lung injury or EVALI.
In response, Duterte said he would immediately order a ban on e-cigarettes and ordered authorities to arrest people caught using them.
Duterte likened vaping to the use of cigarettes and tobacco. Earlier this year, Duterte – a former smoker himself – said cigarette users “should be exterminated”, reported NPR.
“This vaping, it contains nicotine and other chemicals that we do not know,” he said. “It has not passed the FDA … and at this time, I said ‘smoking is dangerous’ so vaping is also dangerous and I am banning it.”
In banning e-cigarettes, the Philippines will join several nations across the globe creating sweeping regulations against vaping products, according to NPR.
The Philippines under Duterte is known for its brutal stance on substances. Since the Duterte administration began in 2016, the country’s law enforcement has waged a domestic war on drugs. Thousands have died in drug raids, either by the police or by vigilantes who were encouraged by Duterte to take matters into their own hands.
* Paolo Zialcita is an intern on NPR’s Newsdesk.
What case to file vs arrested vape users? ‘None’, admits PNP
At the behest of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will continue arresting vape users across the country – but its top official admitted on 21 November that they have no legal basis for filing cases, writes Rambo Talabong for Rappler.
“Kung umaresto ang policeman, anong ipa-file na kaso (When a cop makes an arrest, what case will be filed)?” Rapplerasked PNP officer-in-charge Lieutenant General Archie Gamboa at a press briefing in Camp Bagong Diwa.
“Wala nga eh (None),” said Gamboa, a licensed lawyer.
He noted in the briefing that there was still no executive order from Duterte that would ban vaping in public and importing vape paraphernalia.
Asked why the police would arrest vape users, Gamboa said: “Just to implement the directive of the President. Under the police powers of the state you can do that.”
No case, no detention. Recognising that they still have no clear basis for making the arrest, Gamboa said he had directed cops to arrest but not detain vape users in police stations. Instead, their names will be listed in the blotter and they will then be released, Rappler says.
He downplayed the blotter protocol: “It doesn’t even have a probative value. You cannot even use it in court, and it cannot prejudice the person later on.”
Blotters, however, are still used by cops in their probes as it serves as the first rough account of incidents, including arrests, that occur in their area of responsibility. Once names are placed on blotters, they cannot be removed.
The PNP has also been accused many times by numerous rights groups of filing trumped-up charges when they could not find a basis for arrests.
Why this matters
There are around one million vape users in the Philippines, as estimated by the Department of Health, reports Rappler.
They are the newest targets of the frustration of Duterte, who sweepingly ordered law enforcers in a press conference to arrest all vape users. Even without an executive order, the PNP immediately ordered its men and women nationwide to arrest vape users in public spaces just on the president’s word.
Recognising that his order may be questioned, Duterte warned judges against suspending his directive, saying: “I will not obey your [temporary restraining] order because of the peculiar situation this country finds [itself in].”Philippines’ Duterte Says He Will Ban E-Cigarettes, Threatens To Arrest Vapers What case to file vs arrested vape users? ‘Wala,’ admits PNP