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Law group: Vape, e-cig firms target youth thru social media

One in four Filipino students has used e-cigarettes, based on study

MANILA, (PIA) -- “Young people and your children are not safe from vape and e-cigarette advertising.”

This was the statement of public interest law organization ImagineLaw on Wednesday as it warned parents that makers of vapes and e-cigarettes are getting more young people hooked on their products.

“Advertising and promotion of vapes and e-cigarettes have intensified over social and digital media. Marketing ploys for vapes and e-cigarettes are creative, youthful, and employ social media influencers that children and young people follow and look up to,” said Atty. Anna Bueno, policy associate for ImagineLaw.

“This marketing scheme is the reason behind the alarming data that 1 in every 4 Filipino students, aged 13-15 years old, has used e-cigarettes,” the lawyer added. “The ongoing coronavirus pandemic did not deter the sale and marketing of vapes and e-cigarettes that, just like regular cigarettes, are also harmful to the lungs, the very organs being attacked by COVID-19,” she also said.

The law group reported that they have monitored the use of social media influencers to get young people to use vape and e-cigarettes. “We have preliminary data that vape and e-cigarette companies are using social media influencers to promote their products through engaging content that is irresistible to young people,” said Atty. Bueno. “Social media influencers make vapes and e-cigarettes cool, but they are in fact harmful,” she warned.

ImagineLaw also expressed alarm over the ‘youthful’ variants of vapes and e-cigarettes in online markets. “Vapes and e-cigarettes in chocolate, mango, watermelon, and other candy-like flavors are clearly there to entice young people and children,” Atty. Bueno explained.

She 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. “A comprehensive ban on sale and advertising online should be seriously considered, as they do not have clear safeguards that protect young people,” she urged.

ImagineLaw explained that vapes and e-cigarettes are some of the ways that tobacco companies seek to maintain profit. “As government regulations are strengthened against the sale and marketing of traditional tobacco products, tobacco companies are venturing into the manufacture and sale of e-cigarettes and vapes and getting more young people hooked in this highly-addicting habit,” according to Atty. Bueno.

“Vapes and e-cigarettes are also being falsely claimed as ‘healthier’ alternatives to regular cigarettes. Doctors, however, have maintained that this is a blatant lie,” she said.

ImagineLaw also said that 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. “We must oppose these industry-backed bills and protect our young people from the harms of vape and e-cigarette use,” the law group urged.

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.

“Especially in this time of a global pandemic, we must prioritize public health over profit,” ImagineLaw said. (PIA-NCR)

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