MANILA — A ban on e-cigarettes has been ordered by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who is threatening to arrest anyone vaping publicly in a country that already has some of Asia's toughest anti-smoking rules.
Duterte is notorious internationally for his deadly anti-narcotics crackdown, but he has also imposed a wide-ranging ban on smoking in public that is part of his pledge to get tough on public disorder.
The president told a late-night press conference on Tuesday that the use and importation of electronic cigarettes would be banned, but did not provide a precise timeline.
"I will ban it, the use and the importation. I hope everybody is listening. Please relay this to them. You know why? Because it is toxic," said Duterte, an ex-smoker.
"Now this vaping, they say it is electronic. Don't give me that... Better stop it because in -- I will order your arrest if you do it in a room," he added at his first public speaking engagement in weeks.
His comments come days after Philippine health authorities reported the nation's first vaping-related lung injury, which resulted in a 16-year-old girl being hospitalised.
E-cigarettes have become hugely popular in the past decade but a rash of vaping-linked deaths and illnesses in the United States is feeding caution about the product, already banned in some places.
In September 2019 India became the latest country to ban the import, sale, production and advertising of e-cigarettes, citing in particular concerns about its youth.
The devices are already banned in several places such as Brazil, Singapore, Thailand and the US state of Massachusetts.
Before Duterte's presidency, the Philippines already had a ban on tobacco advertising, as well as a law that requires graphic images of smoking health hazards to be printed on cigarette packaging. — AFP