THERE are moments when we stop and think about something because somehow it simply doesn’t make sense at all. And because it’s bizarre, wrong or unbelievable, one could just ask, “What da?”
Two major e-cigarette consumer groups are asking the same to Civil Service Commission Chairman Alicia Dela Rosa-Bala whom they took to task for allegedly trying to hijack the Philippine panel position to an international tobacco control treaty discussion.
The groups stressed that it is “obviously beyond the expertise and jurisdiction of the CSC to do so.” Vapers Philippines and PRO Vape questioned the presence of Bala at the recent Conference of Parties 7 (COP 7) for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in New Delhi, India from Nov. 7-12.
Mark Erana, spokesperson of the Vapers Philippines said, “According to fellow vapers in Europe, chairman Bala as head of the Philippine delegation, supported a proposal that will allow an outright ban of e-cigarettes without prior consultation with the Philippine vaping community.”
Such prompted Allan Marciano, secretary general of PRO Vape to ask, “What is her expertise in calling for a ban on e-cigarettes? The civil service has a lot of problems that need fixing. Why is their chairperson spending a week in India talking about banning e-cigarettes?”
Reports said the CSC has been a recipient of grants from the American-based Bloomberg Foundation in the amount of P14 million. And so Marciano asked: “What is the purpose of this grant and how are they using it?”
The Bloomberg website shows that CSC received a grant of $104,000 in Nov. 2014 from the foundation and another $183,695 in February this year supposedly to protect the bureaucracy from tobacco industry interference.
But Erana argued that, “E-cigarettes are different from regular cigarettes and these new products are a lot less dangerous to the health of consumers. In fact, we are encouraging smokers to switch to reduce their chances of getting smoking-related sickness.”
According to him, e-cigarettes have been endorsed by the United Kingdom government as 95 percent safer than cigarettes. They are widely available in England, the USA and the EU leading millions of smokers to quit cigarettes for good.
As a matter of fact, the Public Health England which includes the Cancer Research UK, the British Lung Foundation and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies among others found that “the health risks posed by e-cigarettes are relatively small by comparison (to regular cigarettes).”
Likewise, Public Health England said “international peer-reviewed evidence indicates that the risk to the health of bystanders from exposure to e-cigarettes vapour is extremely low.” It recommends that regulation including policy on public use of e-cigarettes should make a clear distinction between smoking and vaping and treat them differently.
Erana’s group is surprised why even the Department of Health does not see this obvious and glaring distinction in proposing a public use ban on e-cigarettes similar to that of regular cigarettes. Public Health England said they should be treated differently, adding that it is alarming to note that Philippine health officials are so uniformed with the latest scientific research findings.
Like Erana, Mariano has more concerns. He said there are so many credible scientific studies out there that show e-cigarettes have 90-95% less of the toxins found in cigarette smoke. So he asked why did CSC Chair Bala choose to ignore them and what is her claim to expertise in the field of science?
There’s a point in saying that pushing the ban on e-cigarettes is not the job the taxpayers are paying the CSC chair to do. What she can do is probably tell how CSC used those Bloomberg grants.
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