President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte announced his intention on Tuesday to ban the use and importation of electronic cigarettes after the country’s Health Ministry reported its first case of a vaping related illness.
In a late-night press conference at the Malacañang Palace, the president appeared visibly fuming at the “toxic” popularity of vaping, declaring real cigarettes superior to their electronic alternative.
“Now vaping, they said, is electronic,” he complained. “Don’t give me that shit. Cigarettes are better because the confirmed toxic thing that causes harm is listed. Vaping contains nicotine and other chemicals that we do not know. It has not passed the FDA [Food and Drug Administration].”
A former smoker himself, Duterte is notorious for his brutal crackdown on the country’s drug trade, but he has also targeted tobacco with a wide-ranging ban on smoking in public.
“I said smoking is dangerous. So vaping is also dangerous and I am banning it,” he said. “And if you are smoking now, you will be arrested … I am now ordering the law enforcement agencies to arrest anybody [who is] vaping in public.”
The new policy comes days after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported the nation’s first vaping-related lung injury, which resulted in the hospitalization of a 16-year-old girl. The condition, known as EVALI, is fairly common in the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control documenting 2,172 cases since February this year.
Duterte said he did not need to issue an executive order for the ban to be implemented immediately, arguing his statement would be sufficient.
“As a government worker here, standing [before you], I have that urgent power to do it,” he said. “So I am ordering it [now]; the EO will follow.”
On Wednesday, Philippine National Police’s officer-in-charge, Police Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, released a statement ordering “all police units nationwide to enforce the ban on [the] use of vapes; ensuring that all violators will be arrested and properly recorded in the police blotters [and that] confiscated items are accounted for and disposed of properly.”
The abrupt announcement adds to a growing global backlash against vaping, which has long been promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking. The product has become massively popular over the past decade. However, growing numbers of vaping-related illnesses and deaths have led to some countries banning the product altogether.
Vaping is already banned in several U.S. states including Massachusetts and Michigan, as well as countries such as Brazil, India Singapore, and Thailand.