No charges filed but vape devices seized

AT LEAST 141 vape users in Cebu were reprimanded and their devices confiscated by the police in 36 hours after President Rodrigo Duterte verbally ordered the arrest of those who use these devices in public.

The breakdown of those reprimanded and who had their devices confiscated: 81 in Cebu City, 53 in Cebu Province and seven in Mandaue City.

In Mandaue City, the police chief advised vape shop owners Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, to close shop because of Duterte’s order to ban the use of vapes and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in public.

Police Col. Jonathan Abella, Mandaue police chief, said that on receiving the directive of the President and the instructions from Police Regional Office 7 Director Valeriano de Leon, his personnel went around and confiscated the devices. They also informed users of the President’s directive.

Although there is no order to arrest users, Abella asked vape users to surrender their devices to the nearest police station as he advised vape shop owners to close their businesses.

On questions on the legal basis for taking police action on vape users, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said he wants the City Council to come up with an ordinance to regulate the use of vapes in the city.

As there are vape shops in the city, he wants the Council to come up with a comprehensive ordinance to involve users and suppliers or sellers.

City Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia, as chairman of the Council committee on laws, said there is only a need to amend the City Ordinance 2241 or the Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance and include in the provision the use of vapes in public places.

While the ordinance requires a designated area for smoking, it can also go with vaping, he said.

Councilor Dave Tumulak, also chairman of the City’s peace and order council, supports the move to have a local ordinance.

Philippine National Police (PNP) officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa said in Manila on Thursday, Nov. 21, that those caught vaping in public will be arrested but will not be detained. They will be released, with only a warning against violating the ban, after their arrest is recorded in the police blotter.

Gamboa also clarified that the police do not have the authority to close vape shops.

Gamboa cited as basis for his order the President’s verbal order and Executive Order No. 26, which Duterte issued in 2017 to prohibit smoking in public areas and enclosed spaces.

Duterte on Tuesday said an EO prohibiting vaping will follow.

The President imposed the ban after he was asked to comment on the Department of Health announcement that a 16-year-old girl was diagnosed with electronic cigarette or vape-associated lung injury, the first in the Philippines.

President Duterte, meanwhile on Wednesday, warned the judiciary that he would not acknowledge any temporary restraining order that will be issued to stop the ban on vaping in the country.

“Judges, I warn you, do not issue restraining orders to the Customs, to the Coast Guard. I will not obey your order because of the peculiar situation this country finds (itself in),” he said. “Judges, I know that you can determine whether vaping is good or not, but unfortunately, your indolence does not inspire confidence. It takes you too long to decide and so do not interfere in this.”

For vape users and sellers, they are worried about the ban but would like to know the extent of what can happen to them.

Daniel (not his real name), administrator of a vape users group on Facebook, said they are against the ban on e-cigarettes. “If I say that vaping has no side effects, that is very wrong. In the first place, vape is not 100 percent safe but vape is better than traditional cigarettes because the elements and ingredients to make an e-juice is commonly used and consumed in our daily food,” he said in a chat interview. He agreed though that vaping by minors and in public should be prohibited.

One vape device costs from P1,500 to P5,000 or more. It has a charger, battery and atomizer. The liquid or e-juice that is placed in the device costs P100 to P1,000, depending on how many milliliter or ml and the quality.

Members of a vape group said they are worried they would still be arrested in private places. They wanted clarification on the coverage of the ban.

EJ, an owner of a vape shop, said he would probably close the shop because of the order but he will still use vape. “Yes, I will still use it since they will just arrest those who will use vape in public,” he said in Cebuano. (AYB, JJL, KFD, JCT / SunStar Philippine)