Chemical Safety Health and Safety Toxic Products

Groups Push for Tighter Heavy Metal Restrictions on Vapor and Heated Tobacco Products to Protect Public Health and the Environment

Two non-government organizations pressed for stringent restrictions on heavy metal contaminants in vapor and heated tobacco products (HTPs) amid calls for a 100% smoke-free environment as part of the “better normal” following the novel coronavirus crisis.

In a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition (a waste and pollution watchdog group) and HealthJustice Philippines (a public health think tank and advocacy group) jointly pitched for the strictest limits to protect citizens from being exposed to toxic metals in the refills and cartridges of HTPs and vapes, also known as e-cigarettes.

While generally in support of the draft guidelines developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the regulation of vapor products and HTPs, the groups thought that the allowable trace amount limits for heavy metals, particularly lead (a potent neurotoxin), could be further lowered to protect public health.

“The public, especially the youth, should not use heated tobacco and vapor products for they are both harmful to humans and the environment. They are not safer than regular cigarettes and should be strictly regulated”, said Atty. Benedict Nisperos, Policy Consultant, HealthJustice Philippines.

“Believing in the need to eliminate human exposure to toxic metals in the lifecycle of products, and applying the precautionary principle, we seek the strictest maximum trace amount limits for antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury in vapor refills and HTP cartridges and refills,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Through a position paper sent to Dr. Rolando Enrique Domingo, Health Undersecretary and concurrent OIC Director General of FDA, the EcoWaste Coalition also emphasized the need to set restrictions on aerosol pollutants from heated tobacco and vapor products.

“To protect users and non-users of  vapor and heated tobacco products from potentially harmful aerosols, we urge the FDA to address this concern in the revised guidelines,” the group said.

The EcoWaste Coalition likewise flagged the problem with the arbitrary disposal of HTPs and vaping products noting that discarded e-juice plastic pods, capsules or cartridges and vape pens are not chemically benign.

“As the impacts of e-cigarette waste on the health of land environment and the oceans are only starting to be noticed and understood, we find it necessary for the authorities to take preventive measures that will avert a potential waste problem similar to the much littered cigarette butts or filters,” the group said.

To address this concern, the group proposed the inclusion of extended producer responsibility in the guidelines that will make the manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of HTPs and vapor products responsible for the post-consumer stage of their products, including their safe collection, treatment and disposal.

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and HealthJustice Philippines are optimistic that the FDA-draft guidelines on vaping products and HTPs will be further strengthened by the inclusion of these pollution prevention measures.