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Wed 20 Nov 2019 10:19 AM

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Philippines to ban e-cigarettes after lung illness case

The ban comes days after the Department of Health said a teenager in central Philippines who's been vaping for six months and also smoking cigarettes was diagnosed with a lung injury

Philippines to ban e-cigarettes after lung illness case

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

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will stop the importation of electronic cigarettes and prohibit their use in public after a teenager contracted a lung illness tied to vaping.

“I will ban it, the use and the importation,” Duterte said at a televised briefing on Tuesday evening. “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 a teenager in central Philippines who’s been vaping for six months and also smoking cigarettes was diagnosed with a lung injury. The case is likely to be the first known 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.

LT Group Inc., the holding company of billionaire Lucio Tan whose tobacco unit is the Philippine partner of Philip Morris International Inc., climbed for a second day, rising as much as 2.9% in Manila on Wednesday. JG Summit Holdings Inc., whose unit partnered with Juul to bring its products to the Philippines, fell as much as 1%.

Smoking in enclosed public spaces is already banned, implemented by Duterte less than a year into his term that started in June 2016.

The Department of Health issued a statement Nov. 15 saying a 16-year-old was admitted to intensive care last month after experiencing sudden shortness of breath. She was diagnosed with the “vape-associated lung injury” that matched criteria from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and discharged after being treated.

Unknown cause

The CDC has struggled to identify the precise cause of the US outbreak and hasn’t yet blamed a single product or type of device, though chemicals in vaping liquids from black market sources or used with cannabis-derived THC have drawn scrutiny.

The illness has so far been limited to North America, and specialists believe deaths elsewhere are likely to be rare in countries where suspect products like THC are banned, according to a Reuters report last month.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, has campaigned and given money in support of a ban on flavoured e-cigarettes and tobacco and supports efforts to reduce global demand for tobacco worldwide.

At the unscheduled Tuesday 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.

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