Philippines to ban e-cigarettes, arrest people for vaping in public

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will stop the importation of electronic cigarette products to the country and prohibit their use in public places.

“I will ban it, the use and the importation,” Duterte said at a televised briefing yesterday.

“I am now ordering the law enforcement agencies to arrest anybody vaping in public.”

E-cigarettes contain “nicotine and other chemicals that we do not know,” he said.

The ban comes days after the Department of Health said that a teenager in central Philippines who’s been vaping for 6 months and also smoking cigarettes was diagnosed with a lung injury, in what is likely to be the first known case in Asia of the mystery illness that’s killed almost 40 people in the US and afflicted nearly 2,000.

The outbreak has swiftly turned global regulatory attitudes against the nascent e-cigarette industry.

Once thought of as a useful tool to help smokers quit, vaping is now banned by around 30 countries including India and Brazil.

Duterte’s pronouncement is unexpected, as Philippine Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said last month that a ban on e-cigarettes is unlikely but that they may be slapped with higher taxes.

The Philippines was seen by e-cigarette makers like Juul Labs Inc as one of the promising markets in Southeast Asia.

At the unscheduled briefing, Duterte also said he will suspend the importation of rice during harvest season to help the local farmers.

He also warned Vice President Leni Robredo, whom he designated earlier this month to co-chair a government body against illegal drugs, not to reveal confidential matters.