Dr. Mata is currently the President of Quit for Good, a non-stock, non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of Harm Reduction
I shall talk about saving 16 million Filippino smokers by embracing tobacco harm reduction through proper information and regulation in the Philippines.
Quit for good is an advocacy group composed of concerned citizens who recognize the profound doubts and loss combustible tobacco has done to society.
Quit for good advocates sustainable ways of creating the smoking habit for the 16 million Filippino smokers and we aim to create a neutral space where advocates can commit to tangible outputs in their respective fields.
We raise issues from the perspective of the 16 million Filippino smokers who are trying to help and push for a differentiated, balanced, consumer-centric approach to regulating smoke-free products.
In line with our efforts in advocacies, we have been strong believers in the concept of tobacco harm reduction.
Tobacco harm reduction, or using safer nicotine products offers new choices to millions of people worldwide, who want to switch away from smoking or other dangerous forms of tobacco use.
Smoking is the single greatest preventable cause of death and disease in the world today, these are caused by harmful constituents released in the smoke when the tobacco in the cigarette is burned.
Nicotine is not the problem, it is not the cause of deaths and diseases, burning or combustion is.
The WHO reported that there are more than 4000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful, and more than 50 are known to cause cancer.
Bystanders are also adversely affected by combustible tobacco, secondhand smoke contains more than 7000 chemicals of which hundreds are toxic and 70 can cause cancer.
Combustible tobacco smoking kills more than 8 million people each year, approximately 7 million of these deaths are a result of direct cigarette smoking while the rest is the result of non-smokers being exposed to secondhand smoke.
80% of the world’s one billion smokers live in low and middle-income countries like the Philippines.
The best way to avoid the harms of cigarette smoking is really as simple as quitting completely, but in reality, as much as you want all smokers to quit, not everyone would want to quit or can quit.
Tobacco harm reduction through the use and promotion of safer alternatives and combustible tobacco should be employed to substantially reduce the risk of death and disease from smoking.
There must be another option provided to smokers who do not quit and it is time to properly inform them of each of such choices aside from quitting or dying.
One solution is electronic vaping products or electronic cigarettes that do not involve combustion, beyond any reasonable doubt vaping is considerably less harmful than combustible cigarettes.
Similar to e-cigarettes there is no burning, but unlike vapes, nicotine is naturally found in the tobacco by heating the tobacco without burning it.
I would like to emphasize that the best way really to avoid the harm of cigarette smoking is as simple as quitting completely.
We have extensive local international development studies showing that smoke-free products are less harmful and effective alternatives to combustible tobacco.
It was determined that in the short and medium-term vaping processes a small fraction of the risk of smoking and there is significantly lower exposure to harmful substances.
Nicotine replacement therapy or nicotine-free e-cigarettes may help more people stop smoking than no support or behavioral support only, but it is crucial to emphasize that in an ideal world, smokers should quit completely.
To achieve the public health goals of accelerating the decline in smoking prevalence and reducing the harm related to it, harm reduction measures must be maintained in the regulatory policies of the government.
Adult smokers should have the option to switch from smoking to other alternatives that do not involve combustion such as electronic cigarettes in HTPs.
We envision an effective regulatory framework incorporating harm reduction measures to be differentiated and protective of consumers in this industry and the public at large, supportive of reasonable accessibility.
Laws should be carefully calibrated to ensure that adult smokers are made aware of less harmful alternatives available and given the option to shift to these alternatives.
The vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine product regulation in the Philippines is a breakthrough that we have witnessed in a global campaign to mitigate the impact of smoking in terms of the Philippines legislation.
Quit for good fully welcomes the passage into law of the vaporized nicotine and non-nicotine products regulation by an overwhelming majority from both houses of Congress.
The law requires separate designated vaping areas where minors and smoking are not allowed, this recognizes the fact that vape products are entirely different from combustible cigarettes.
Without tobacco harm reduction awareness and acceptance, coupled with ensuring fair regulation, we will never witness a dramatic decline in smoking prevalence.
As far as tobacco harm reduction and smoke-free product regulation is concerned, there is good news when it comes to the attitudes of adult Filippino tobacco and nicotine users.
Among 2000 adult smokers and nicotine users, nine out of ten smokers and users of smoke-free products want the government to come up with plans to enforce tobacco harm reduction in the country.
It is only when they provide adult smokers less harmful options that we rightfully shift the balance in favour of the individual for a more inclusive public health policy.
There is a lot to improve in our vape law, but for the moment we can not impose on it, we just have to be contented with what we have now.
We will be able to mainstream the idea that this vape is really a less harmful alternative to cigarettes, as of now the proper information that seeps through them.
Without flavour, the vape industry will not flourish.
You don’t expect a young growing adult to be looking for candy flavours, he wants to be mature looking so you expect him to look for mature flavours like tobacco and mean flavor.