Manila, Philippines — In a bold effort to combat non-compliance and curb rampant violations of vaping laws that pose significant risks to the well-being of minors, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is actively exploring the idea of prohibiting the online sale of vape products. This critical proposal emerged during a pivotal meeting on July 21, spearheaded by DTI Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual and graced by the presence of DTI Undersecretary for Consumer Welfare Group, Ruth B. Castelo.

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The potential ban is a necessary step to address the widespread defiance of Republic Act 11900, also known as the Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, a law that explicitly prohibits the sale or distribution of vape products to individuals under the age of 18. By taking this decisive action, the DTI aims to protect the youth from the potential dangers associated with underage vaping and ensure a healthier future for the upcoming generations.

In an exclusive revelation, Castelo, the spokesperson for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), unveiled an upcoming game-changing move. The DTI is gearing up to release a groundbreaking Department Administrative Order, aimed at putting a halt to the online sale of vape products. The ban will remain in effect until vendors and platforms demonstrate their complete compliance with RA 11900, a crucial regulatory law.

Emphasizing the gravity of the situation, Castelo highlighted that non-compliant vendors will face serious consequences. To enforce adherence, the DTI is prepared to take significant actions, including the possibility of pursuing legal measures. Among these options are seeking intervention from esteemed institutions like the Supreme Court or Congress.

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Addressing the public’s concerns, Director Marcus Valdez II, head of the Consumer Policy and Enforcement Bureau, expressed his apprehension regarding the improper labeling and marketing tactics employed by vape product vendors. A particular area of concern is the use of enticing flavor descriptors like “turon” and “cheesecake,” which tend to attract younger consumers. To safeguard the youth, the law will strictly prohibit the sale of vape products with such flavor names. Only regular tobacco, mint, or menthol flavored vape products will be permitted, aligning with the legislative framework.

In a bid to ensure responsible usage and safeguard the well-being of young individuals, strict regulations have been put in place concerning the sale of vape products. Among these stipulations is the compulsory inclusion of prominent signage on all vape items, bearing the cautionary message “Product cannot be sold to minors.”

Furthermore, vendors are entrusted with the responsibility of establishing designated testing zones, equipped with proper ventilation systems, to facilitate safe product evaluations. To uphold the age restriction on purchases, diligent scrutiny of buyers’ identification is mandatory.

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Taking the protection of minors even further, the law has imposed a ban on the sale of vape items within a 100-meter radius of places frequently visited by young individuals, such as playgrounds and amusement centers.

Overseeing the effective implementation of these regulations is Director Fhillip Sawali, who heads the DTI Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB). Ever since the law came into effect on December 28, 2022, the DTI has been actively engaged in extensive monitoring, prosecuting those in violation of the rules, and conducting fair adjudication procedures. To bolster their efforts, the FTEB has deployed 15 online monitoring units, working diligently to inspect various markets on a regular basis.

The teams conducted thorough inspections across a grand total of 679 physical stores. Among these, 283 establishments were found to be in full compliance with the regulations, while 247 stores were discovered to be in violation, and 149 had closed their doors for business.

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Not stopping at physical stores, the vigilant FTEB meticulously monitored a vast digital landscape of 37,808 online shops. Of these, 274 online shops were found to be adhering to the guidelines, while 1,649 shops were caught in violation. However, the majority of 35,885 online vendors, though deemed compliant, faced the issue of incomplete address information and were consequently issued show cause orders.

Within the National Capital Region, a staggering count of 38,998 online vape merchants was identified. Amidst the array of merchants, formal charges have been initiated by the DTI against 109 vendors, which currently await resolution in the adjudication division. Furthermore, a single charge was brought against an e-commerce platform. As part of ongoing regulatory measures, show cause orders have been served to 201 merchants to ensure compliance and accountability.

In light of the Joint Administrative Order 22-01, Castelo emphasized the ample time provided to vendors for compliance with the law. However, despite initial guidance, violations persisted and even escalated, with some e-commerce platforms allowing vendors to resurface under different or creatively misspelled names, posing enforcement challenges.

In addition to the existing regulations, the DTI Bureau of Product Services is actively working on certifying vape product manufacturers. Engr. Frances Irene Bisquera, the BPS subsection head of standards conformity division, issued a stern reminder to manufacturers that the mandatory certification process must be completed by June 6, 2024. Failure to adhere to this requirement will lead to the confiscation of vape products lacking the necessary BPS marks – PS mark for local products and ICC for imported items.

It is evident that the authorities are taking significant measures to ensure compliance and regulate the vape industry effectively.

As of now, no manufacturer has yet taken the leap to initiate the intricate certification process for their vape products. So far, the authorities have only received expressions of interest. The certification procedure, spanning around two months, is a critical step where products need to meet the stringent technical regulations set forth by the DTI.

Bisquera, a prominent figure in the industry, has passionately called upon manufacturers to get acquainted with these requirements diligently. This proactive approach is essential to ensure absolute compliance and steer clear of the risk of confiscation of their products beyond the specified deadline.

Undoubtedly, the DTI remains steadfast in its commitment to uphold the law and prioritize the welfare of the youth and consumers. The proposed ban on online vape sales aims to decisively curb the unlawful distribution of vape products, effectively leaving room for only responsible and compliant vendors to thrive in the market. By combining concerted efforts and unwavering enforcement, the DTI envisions creating an environment where consumers, particularly minors, can safely indulge in the vape experience while supporting a responsible and flourishing vape industry in the Philippines.