As the government continues to raise public awareness against the negative effects of tobacco, vaping has grown in popularity with the rise of e-cigarettes and vaporizers or mods among smokers who wanted to break the habit.
Younger patrons, on the other hand, see it as cool way to connect with their peers and complete their fashion statement, using it as an accessory.
“Cool po tingnan saka masarap sa pakiramdam (It looks cool and it feels good),” two teenage vapers (who refused to be identified) hanging out in a vape shop in Quezon City said in a chance interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
But the big question is: “Is it cool for your health?
Kirk Michael Teoxon, 27, told PNA he had a similar reason for trying vaping three years ago, but it changed later as he wanted to live a healthier lifestyle.
“First, uso ang vaping. Second, try ko mag-quit sa (First, it’s a trend, second, I try to quit) smoking cigar,” he added.
Vaping is the inhaling and exhaling of vaporized e-juice or e-liquid which contains a propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin-based liquid, flavoring and other chemicals and metals. While it does not have tobacco, it includes nicotine.
The vaporizers or mods usually come in two types — variable mods and full mechanical mods. Variable mods allow its users to control the voltage and the amount of smoke produced. Full mechanical mods do not offer such options as they immediately produce heavy smoke as the battery heats up the heating component.
Being a smoker for 10 years, Teoxon said vaping helped him control his cigarette-smoking habit.
“Hindi siya totally nawala, pero na-lessen. Ang pakiramdam ko, sometimes satisfying depende sa juice pero mas magaan pakiramdam ko dito compared sa pag-smoke ng (My smoking habit did not disappear totally, but it lessened. I feel, sometimes it’s satisfying depending on the juice, but I feel lighter [with vaping] compare to smoking) cigar,” he said.
Teoxon added that vaping as a habit is “a one-time big-time expense” because it requires proper devices unlike tobacco cigarettes which are readily available in stores.
“Ang maayos na set ng vape unit aabutin ka ng PHP4,000 to PHP5,000 lahat na iyon. Then, add mo ‘yung consumables or disposables like bulak na PHP20 isang plastic tapos PHP200 to PHP500 na masarap na juice plus ‘yung pambayad sa magaayos ng wires and cotton savape mo na (A good set of vape unit costs PHP4,000 to PHP5,000 all in. Then, add the consumables or disposables like the cotton then PHP200 to PHP500 delicious juice plus your payment for the person who will be fixing your vape which is) PHP40. The cottons will last for two days and one month for the wires,” he said.
In 2014, an eight-month study in Belgium reported that e-cigarette smoking or vaping successfully reduced cravings for tobacco cigarettes. It said 21 percent of the 48 participants stopped smoking tobacco totally while an additional 23 percent reported reduced the number of tobacco cigarettes they smoked per day by half.
World Health Organization country representative Gundo Weiler said there could be studies showing the positive effects of e-cigarettes or vapes, but they are not “proven solutions to the tobacco epidemic” in any country.
“There’s a push for e-cigarettes and vaping and they have promises but we, as an evidence-based organization, we look into the data and the data is not yet so clear on its good and negative effects. The data is not also clear if below the line it could lead to lesser consumption of tobacco,” he said in a recent press briefing.
Meanwhile, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Rolando Domingo said the e-juices or e-liquids could contain harmful chemicals which may lead to cigarette-smoking and nicotine addiction.
“We want it [the vape liquid] to be registered as a drug, because it’s definitely not food. It is potentially harmful. It is not a recreational substance that will not provide any harm. We want it registered as a drug and not as any harmless product,” he added.
When asked about his thoughts on the recent accident which harmed a teenaged vaper, Teoxon said he is not worried that the same thing could happen to him.
“May tamang pagamit naman ng vape like sa pagpili ng battery na gagamitin sa unit na bibilhin. May lapses din kasi ‘yung nasabugan kaya nangyari ‘yun pero kawawa pa rin siya (There’s a right way to use vape like choosing the right battery for the unit to buy. There are lapses on the part of the victim, nonetheless, it’s too bad for him),” he said.
Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association, said the use of e-cigarettes and vapes must be regulated as there is a growing market for such products.
“In 2013, napagpasyahan namin magsama-sama para maproteksyunan ang consumers at ang industriya sa mga fly-by-night operators.Alam din namin na wala pang regulations sa e-cigarettes kaya binuo namin ito para ma-push namin ang government na ma-regulate ito nang tama (We [e-cigarette users] decided to unite in 2013 to protect the consumers and the industry from fly-by-night operators. We know that there are no regulations on the e-cigarettes, so we established our group to push the government to regulate it properly),” he said. (PNA)