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Posted by HealthJustice Philippines on Friday, May 15, 2020
No to next generation of nicotine addicts
Fashionable, hip, and cool is the new norm for advertising by tobacco companies targeted at teens.
A new line of nicotine products called e-cigarettes or more popularly known as vapes have been incredibly popular with teens and despite having been only introduced to the marlet in 2003, doctors are already seeing health impacts from short-term exposure.
For example, asthma, allergies, and even fibrosis—a disease where lungs start to age earlier—can already be seen in young vapers.
So the question remains, “What makes vaping so irresistible to teens?”
Teen’s brains don’t get to mature fully until they reach the age of 25. Before that age, a lot of myelination happens and this is when nerve cells get to transmit information faster, allowing for higher-forms of learning, impulse control, and yes, even addiction in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.
“So what happens is when you are exposed to nicotine at a young age, your brain is more prone to the rewarding effects of nicotine,” said Dr. Rizalina RH Gonzales of the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS).
Nicotine will attack the receptors in the brain so the so-called happy hormone called dopamine is released. Now as more nicotine is ingested by the child, more nicotine receptors are activated so the child gets more dopamine.
Of course, the effects aren’t permanent so when that is lost, there lies the problem: the receptors are fully activated, that’s why a child or a teen craves for more nicotine.
Recipe for disaster
In the Philippines, 14.5% of young people between the ages of 13-15 are already smoking according to results from the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS). In the case of vaping, its 11.7%.
When PPS partnered with the Department of Education to administer the same survey in 2017, the results were more encouraging. Only 6.7% are users of e-cigarettes. But what’s disturbing is the age of initiation. Children started to smoke at 10-15 years of age.
According to Dr. Gonzales that is the early adolescent and preadolescent stage when children start to become risk-takers. “They may want to try liquor, go to places they’re not supposed to be, date someone secretly, and what happens if you add in vape and nicotine into the mix?”
It’s a clear recipe for disaster because the teen’s impulses are out of control.
“How can we expect children to make an informed and right choice if they are not presented with complete information?” asked Camille Madiz of the Child Rights Network (CRN).
Most often than not, tobacco companies like to present vapes, e-cigarettes, and new nicotine products as less harmful when it is still the same substance which is nicotine.
“We are really putting our children at a great disadvantage now that we know these harmful effects, and we still fail to effectively and properly control the distribution and use of tobacco products,” she said.
“We are robbing children of a healthy future, of any future really. Because let’s face it, tobacco really kills. And, in effect, we are denying each other a better Philippines.”
Tighter rules on nicotine use
Rep. Jose Garcia III of the 2nd District of Bataan, is proposing to make changes to the existing Tobacco Regulatory Act (RA 9211) which was passed in 2003.
Some of the said changes include setting the minimum age required to access tobacco products to 21, and for e-cigarettes to 25 years of age. LGUs should also be allowed to draft more detailed ordinances that they think can help their constituents avoid health problems from cigarette smoking and vapes.
The current composition of the Interagency Committee on Tobacco (I-ACT) reportedly needs to be changed by appointing the Department of Health as its new chair, and removing the Philippine Tobacco Institute as a member of the task force. In addition, I-ACT needs to sufficiently report on its activities regularly.
Garcia shared that when he requested for the records of the official meetings of the I-ACT for the past 17 years, the Congressional Committee Secretariat handed to him only a few pages which proves that the task force only meet to comply with Law and failed to discuss meaningfully matters that concern the protection of the public’s health.
In the case of vapes, Rep. Garcia is also pushing for plain packaging of said products, appointing the FDA as its regulating agency instead of the DTI since vapes are not ordinary consumer products owing to its health risks.
Moreover, the FDA needs to implement pre-market authorization first with any vape manufacturer, importer, or distributor, otherwise the said products can be recalled from the market.
The discussion, which took place in the webinar entitled “The Tobacco Industry Tactics on Youth: Vapes and New Nicotine Products,” is part of the World No Tobacco Day 2020 activities of HealthJustice.
HealthJustice is a Bloomberg Awardee for Global Tobacco Control. It is part of NCD Alliance, an international network of civil society organizations, scientific and professional associations and academic and research aiming to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases.### (Health Justice)