. ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE

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On April 10, the FDA issued an advisory saying the electronic- (e-) cigarette is not a proven nicotine replacement therapy and reiterating the WHO's statement that there is no scientific evidence to confirm the product’s safety and efficacy. The e-cigarette is increasingly becoming popular among Filipinos, particularly the youth, as the number of public places that prohibit smoking is increasing and the recent higher tobacco taxes in the country make smoking more expensive. A week after, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) urged local government units to enact ordinances regulating the sale and use of e-cigarettes in respective localities. And towards the end of the month, the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA), composed of store owners, suppliers, and manufacturers of electronic cigarettes and related products in the country, was formed.

Meanwhile, at the global level, the big tobacco companies are reported to be investing in e-cigarettes not to convert their tobacco products which have been flaked with several restrictions, but rather as the way of "renormalizing" the act of smoking and eventually bringing back or not stopping people to tobacco use.

Since the FDA issued the advisory, the DOH Facebook page was flooded by comments from e-cigarette users, and they posted studies and videos claiming the product's safety. Of course, researches and testimonials abound, but the DOH still relies on works of credible individuals and institutions for the development of its policies.On July 24, the FDA conducted its public hearing to discuss the issues on the safety and regulation of e-cigarette in the country.

The e-cigarette is made of plastic and metal device that heat a liquid nicotine solution (e-juice) in a disposable cartridge. It creates a tiny light on the tip even glows like a real cigarette and produces a vapor that stimulates the act of smoking. FDA Acting Director Kenneth Hartigan-Go admitted in a Rappler news report that product classification is one of the biggest challenges to regulate e-cigarattes. He said  that it if e-cigarette sellers make health claims, FDA would classify the e-juice as a drug and the unit as a medical device. The industry would then have to present a proof of concept – outlining the basics of the drug development to demonstrate its feasibility – and an ethical trial approval sought from an academic or medical research institution. Meanwhile, WHO Tobacco-Free Initiative Officer Dr. Florante E. Trinidad, during the ASEAN Regional Forum on NCDs at the Dusit Hotel on August 14, recommended the classification of e-cigarettes as a combination drug and medicinal product. This will directly place e-cigarettes under the jurisdiction of the FDA. He added that so-called e-juice has been confirmed to contain cancer-causing chemicals. As of this writing, the FDA is still to make its official stand.

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