Evidence Wins Out as Philippines Takes a Huge Step Forward in Favour of Public Health

Geneva, Switzerland, 15 August 2022 – INNCO congratulates the government of The Philippines for siding with public health evidence and taking a huge leap towards preserving the health of millions. Despite interference from anti-harm reduction activists, the Philippines has embraced harm reduction to help smokers quit, reducing health risks for people who use toxic forms of tobacco. This approach could save the lives of 16 million Filipinos.

Allegations of illegal outside interference by Bloomberg Philanthropies, with the Philippines Food and Drug Administration, surfaced during public hearings of the Vape Bill. House Deputy Speaker, Ilocos Sur Rep. Deogracias Victor Savellano and Nueva Ecija Rep. Estrellita Suansing called for a full-blown House investigation into the potential conflict of interest when a government regulatory body accepts funding from an American billionaire who is an avowed harm reduction denier.

During hearings with the Philippines FDA and Department of Health, public entities initially denied accepting funding from foreign interests, but later conceded after being confronted with evidence showing that Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg-funded The Union had given funding with the intent to undermine evidence-based regulatory efforts and advance a prohibitionist agenda.

The government of the Philippines, with support from health advocates and the vast majority of law makers, and, in accordance with scientific evidence and a genuine intent to save lives, approved the Vape Bill which “lapsed into law” on July 25 2022. HB 9007 and SB2239, commonly known as the Vape Bill, and now officially referred to as Republic Act 11900. It is a huge step forward in favour of public health. 

Harm Reduction, has proven effective in helping many countries reduce their smoking rates including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, Japan and Sweden. In the UK for example, smoking rates have dropped to a record low of 12.3%. Cigarette sales in Japan have dropped 40% over the past five years. Sweden now has the lowest smoking rate, and smoking-related disease burden, in the entire European Union.

The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) congratulates public health advocates, harm reduction proponents, and regulators in the Philippines for their tireless work to save lives by advancing the new Vape Bill.  INNCO also hopes that this new openness toward harm reduction – to save smokers’ lives – might also serve as an example, signalling a change in The Philippines’ current treatment of people who use illicit drugs.

“It is possible to discourage under-age use of these adult products and to encourage adult smoking cessation to prevent horrible death from cancer, heart and lung disease.  INNCO is deeply concerned that a harm reduction denying billionaire is obviously interfering in the affairs of low- and middle-income countries.  The Philippines is just one example.” says Dr. Charles A. Gardner, Executive Director of INNCO. 

INNCO notes that the 10th Conference of Parties (COP10) of World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will be held in November 2023, in Panama City. If history repeats, INNCO’s application for Observer Status will be denied as it was at COP9 (2021) and COP8 (2018). Most journalists will be expelled as well, as they have been at all previous FCTC COPs. In contrast to the well-known UN Climate Change “COPs”, which are open and transparent, FCTC COPS are closed and opaque, excluding the voices of 112 million People Who Use Safer Nicotine, who are most affected by the issue they debate. Most non-profit organisations that are awarded Observer Status at FCTC COPs have an obvious conflict of interest.  They are funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies.