Undermining of Heated Tobacco Product Regulatory Policy in the Philippines: Implications to FCTC Article 5.3 Implementation
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Health Justice Philippines, Philippines
Publish date: 2019-03-26
Tob. Prev. Cessation 2019;5(Supplement):A31
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Transnational tobacco companies’ investments in heated tobacco products (HTPs) have grown worldwide. However, the method with which HTP commercial introduction is facilitated by policies or norms is little-known. The Philippine legislative process presents a pioneering case study. The local Philip Morris International (PMI) subsidiary monopolizes the cigarette market, creating leverage for HTP rollout. The historically strong tobacco lobby and pervasive tobacco industry interference (TII) serve as important predisposing factors.

We reviewed all bills on tobacco product regulation in the Philippines’ bicameral Congress (July 2016 to November 2018) and cross-referenced proposed regulations with industry positions derived from a triangulated survey of literature; extensive informant interviews; and participation in legislative hearings.

We identified 23 bills in both Lower House (LH) and Upper House (UH); 11 bills cover electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). We documented sponsorship of bills with PMI draftsmanship (3 in LH; 1 in UH), all aiming preemption of “reduced exposure/risk” claim approval and the exclusion of HTPs from current pictorial requirements, tax treatment, and prohibitive advertisement/promotions/access restrictions rules. All 4 bills are filed as ENDS regulation with corresponding support from e-cigarette trade associations and consumer groups, and without ostensible tobacco industry participation.

ENDS industry espousal of PMI-oriented bills circumvents government rules against TII, necessitating more intensive measures to inform and caution policy-makers. An express prohibition in existing anti-TII regulation is needed. Globally, the authoritative recognition of the unity of interests between ENDS and tobacco industries under Article 5.3 by the FCTC Conference of Parties is warranted.

The research was supported by grants from the World Health Organization and Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance.