Anti-vaping zealots have another notch in their belt as lawmakers in Taiwan passed an outright ban on nicotine vaping products. What drove the government of Taiwan to adopt such draconian measures? Find out in our interview with Danny Wang from the Taiwan Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.
Danny (Yu-Yang) Wang
Taiwan Tobacco Harm Reduction Association
Owner VAPE Taiwan
Hi, I'm Brent Stafford and welcome to another edition of Reg Watch on Gfn TV. antivaping zealots have another notch in their belts as lawmakers in Taiwan pass an outright ban on nicotine vaping products. The new law doesn't even mention and vaping directly. Instead, it introduces the term tobacco like products to the legislation known as the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act. Amendments to the tha ban the sale, manufacture, promotion, import and even personal use of nicotine vaping products within the island nation located 100 miles off the east coast of China. Joining us today to discuss the impact of Taiwan's new nicotine vape ban is Danny Wong, president of the Taiwan Tobacco Harm Reduction Association. Danny, thanks for coming on the show.
Thanks for having me.
Danny, as of this recording, we're still waiting for the President of Taiwan to sign off on the new law. Is there any chance that might not happen? And could this date ban be stopped?
Well, in my views this backpack will happen soon actually, because the President lay the President hold, they released the last notice. So basically it's very hard to stop it. So after the bill start take effect, the authority that will take action to give the users penalties and to give a fine to the sellers. So to be honest, I've talked and discussed with the other academic people on law, they say basically this is going to happen for sure, there's no way to go return.
Would you describe the law as draconian?
Yeah, I think the law is really not depending on science and it's really harsh because in the end it will push back people back to cigarettes. So if it's really to protect public health, I don't think this law achieved the goal to protect public health is that they are hurting people's public health. So yeah, this is not evil law for me for vapors.
What did you first think when you heard lawmakers pass the law? Were you surprised, to be honest, in Taiwan?
Because when we do the law amendment, the Calculus Consultation is live streaming, so I can study on YouTube and the legislative website. So when I saw the tobacco law pass, I was very angry and the first word came out of my mouth is the F word, the bad words and keep cursing these government officials and these politicians. So it's very angry. But to be honest, I don't really be surprised because I've been advocating for six years. So in Taiwan I found this better become a big farmer and big tobacco. So normal people like me or other users or other advocates, our voice, are not easy to be heard, especially on the mainstream media. So it takes so long. So in the end they band of AP. So it's kind of not surprised because too many benefited in this battle. So this is like the result we can see before.
So Danny, as he said, Taiwan has banned nicotine vaping products, but not heated tobacco products. They left these products on the market. Is that a partial win for tobacco harm reduction?
Yeah, it's kind of a partial win for THR, because the talent government, when they first proposed this bill, they are going to bend Vaping and Henry burn products altogether. That's the first addition. So right now they pass the bill is to ban vaping nicotine products. But they legalize he not burn. So at least they remain the option for consumers without I mean, cigarette is illegal, but right now the Hina burn pity tobacco product will be legalized. So it's a partial wing. But I have to say but even the hidden tobacco product passed, the heavy regulation is really ridiculous because like what I say, this htps that made Taiwan become the 51st state of America, because if tobacco company, they want to sell this city tobacco product in Taiwan, they have to get the FDA PmtA permit first. It's a USA permit. So that's very weird. If you want to sell this hidden tobacco product in Taiwan, you have to get a permit from the US government. So I think it's very harsh. By the way, at this moment, if you go to check the FDA website only, I call 2019 and 2020 PD tobacco products passed on their Pmt list. So which means only previous ICOs products is allowed to sell in Taiwan according to our new law.
And there are some stricter regulations for heat not burn products in terms of filing some PmtA like kind of documents with the government, right?
Yeah. So I want to say, because different countries, different area, they have a different regulation to the hidden tobacco product. So during our discussion, one group say we can regulate the hidden tobacco product, maybe like Japan. And that group say we have to do a more strict regulation like a USA. So at that time we have debate about that for sure. I'm not interested in discussion it's in the government, in the legislator. So different legislators have different statement about the regulation of hidden product. But in the end, the USA party, they win. I mean, they prefer to take the regulation from the USA because they say if we regulate similar like Japan, it will easily to make a young generation to use this kind of product. So we have to make it more restricted, more restricted cigarettes to protect our kids, protect our health. So they decide to use this restricted regulation on pedotopical products.
So if Taiwan is borrowing from the US regulations around heat not burn and so forth, did they also import from the US. The epidemic of teen vaping, so called and the so called the hysteria around the so called vaping related to lung illness.
Oh, yeah, our government or anti parts, they just like to emphasize these negative information on vaping. So I remember when I when it happened in 2019 in Taiwan, the media, they keep reporting for about a month they will say the Vaping caused death. How many people today are we got more people die for vaping? They keep reporting on that. So after I call it education, the government and anti part educational people, when the media keep recording that for Taiwanese people, they only remember one image in their brain oh, Vaping will kill, vaping makes people die. So our government banning the Vaping is good out for our health because they are protecting our health. But in my opinion, that's really ridiculous. They are just use the information they want and they to broadcast or to educate our people with less negative information. So our people will think oh, Vaping is more dangerous than cigarettes, so we must ban it. Banning Vaping is a good thing. So other like you say, our youth epidemic for sure they will keep talking about that. Our kids keep the using rates keep going up. So we have to protect kids, so we have to ban the Vaping product. So yeah, what happened in the US or other place, our government will use the information to educate our people, to tell them abandon Vaping is a good thing. So everybody should support our bill. So that's what government and anti group keep doing that.
Danny, give us some insight about Vaping in Taiwan before obviously this law goes into effect. Are there many vapors? Are there a lot of retail stores? And how are they going to be impacted once this bill becomes law for Taiwan?
We found out it's about 1 million vapors here in Taiwan, but it's people who ever use Vaping. We don't know it's current use, but we estimate it's about 1 million vapors here. And according to the media they have due to calculates, it says about the vape shop, about 400 to 500 Vape shops in Taiwan back there, back to 2021. So after new low tech infect, I believe the vape shop will decrease because it's become illegal. They were to catch the vape shot and for the users, I believe that the vapor will decrease as well. Because afterward if we vape here, we will get a penalty. So as I heard lots of people decide to go back to smoke or afterward they will go turn to the hiddentypical product because they won't get fine using that product. But if we use Vape in Taiwan, we will get penalty. I believe after new law pass, the vape shop will decrease, go to the underground and the users for vapor, they will change to use other nicotine products.
So if you were to walk down the street after the law goes into effect and pull out your vape and vape, that's illegal.
Afterward everything is illegal, okay? You can possess if you carry a vape on the street, let you be okay. But use is illegal. Just like in the beginning, importation, manufacture, display, advertisements and sell. Everything is spent for vap and they have different penalties for the users and for the business owner. They have different penalties. So it's all everything is illegal afterwards.
Danny when it comes to the science, obviously there's a lot of very pro Vaping science out there and some very credible work out from public health, England, Royal College of Physicians, Cochrane report on nicotine. Does the Taiwanese government not look at that science?
They listen to science, but in my opinion, it's a bad science. A lot of countries will take the Wco as a reference, or FCTC when doing the tobacco law. But to be honest, Taiwan, we are not a member of who. Also we are not a member of UN. Basically, I don't think they have the power to control our bill or our influence our bill. But for sure, the health agency, they will keep, quote, keep using the data research from who. I have to say, I think I've checked W information in their paper. In WH papers, they will show the positive side of Vaping and the negative side of Vaping that's the who report. But when it comes out from our government or media, they only release the negative information. Just like they say cherry picking or other government, you say UK or other place. Yeah, but when the information is positive to a Vaping, it will disappear from our media, from our government. Only bad words will come out from their mouth. They keep saying vaping is bad, vaping is bad. So other like you say from other journalists, our research or from other government is good for Vaping, it just gone. Because, you know, in Taiwan we are using Mandarin. We don't use our official language. Mandary okay, so lawless people, they don't really read or understand English. So even there's a good information on the website, it's English. So for normal people, they don't understand. They just read Mandarin. So they just read information from our government, from media. Oh, this is what they know about Vaping. But you say that positive. The research, the paper, yeah, I can understand, but when I try to tell to others, they will think I'm crazy because government say vape is bad. Oh, you have a paper. It's a fake paper. Oh, it must have made by big tobacco. You have something wrong. Our government said Vape is bad. So, yeah, our government will follow the science, but only for bad science. In my opinion, only for best science. They don't really tell the truth to people. They just keep educating people. Vaping spec using these negative papers, negative information.
Now, in Canada and the US. The antivaping forces usually are camped out on the progressive left. I mean, that's just a fact. Is there a same similar kind of dichotomy in Taiwan?
I think in Taiwan you said it's about political issue, right? So I think it's a political correctness here because everybody agrees smoking is bad and smoking is not good for your health. Everybody agrees on that. But in time, I think it's become a political issue because they don't really tell people the fact of vaping. They just confuse people that the vaping is the same as smoking, or vaping is more dangerous than smoking. So normal people think, oh, vaping is bad for your health. So government banning is protecting our kids, protecting our health. Our ruin party is what we call DPP or DPP. Sorry, DPP.
What does that stand for?
It's a Democratic Progressive Party. It's our ruling party at this moment. To be honest, I don't really think they are Democratic, and they are not really progressive. I have advocates for six years. Our voice, the probate voice, is heard by any legislator from their party. So I've sent lots of email, lots of letters, and even talk to them on the phone. Everybody heard that. But when I did that discussion, our voice just disappeared, just gone. Just one voice. You had to bend vape. It's not really about Democratic, in my opinion. Maybe it's too exaggerated, but I say they are kind of a communist because we cannot have the conversation on this issue. What they say is correct, but everything opposite. It just disappear. We cannot have a conversation left. I think, yeah, it will become a political issue because you will get involved. The vote and this money benefits. So it's not just about science. It's not just about people's rights. It's about this partition. They are trying to win this fight to get money from the big company, and they also want to get a vote from the people. So they're kind of like the line to the people so they can get money from the big company, and also they can get a vote from the people. So in the end, our bill becomes like this.
Danny, Bloomberg Philanthropies just announced $420,000,000 to be spent over the next four years on additional anti smoking, anti vaping programs. And what I say? Propaganda. And that adds up to $1.6 billion that Bloomberg has spent since 2005 on these kinds of programs. Do you think that some of that money has had an effect in Taiwan?
Probably, but I'm not sure. Because in Taiwan, to be honest, few people know who is Bloomberg in our discussion in Taiwan, no one really mentioned about that. But I believe his money to who or to other foundations, they will indirectly influence the policy in Taiwan. Just like what I say, I believe they are founding. They will create more negative paper research about baby. So this negative information will bring into Taiwan. This anti group will keep, quote, fight this antivaping papers, keep telling people, educate people, our decision is correct. Vaping is fat. So banning is the best choice. So this is what I understand it. This broomberg, their money. They don't directly go into Taiwan, but they will use that money to create a massive propaganda. They will create massive propaganda globally, and Taiwan will for sure will be effective.
Danny, I know you're familiar with the Global Forum on Nicotine and its annual conference on safer nicotine products and Tobacco Home Reduction. Gfn is coming up again this June from June 21 to the 24th. Let me ask you, why is an event like gfn important?
Yeah, I think gfn is very important because it's about the combinations of nicotine. So as I'm a nicotine users, I can say right now, people know nicotine in the wrong way. So that's why I believe a lot of people saw that a documentary code. You don't know nicotine. Right. So with the gfn events, I believe that people will have more chance to understand the other side of nicotine, which is the positive side. So I do believe that gfn is very important to educate or to let people know the truth about nicotine.
In a way, it's nicotine advocacy.
Yeah, I think it's very good to do the nicotine advocacy as well, because I'm the nicotine users. So I know in the forum they will have a different company, different academic people, or different information to discuss the nicotine. Because that's why I say right now, everybody, when we say nicotine, everybody just think, oh, it's addictive, it's bad for your health, it's not good. But as a user, I think math is not bad thing. I think it's pretty good. Yeah. I believe in my personal opinions. I don't really believe nicotine is a big hit.
Final question then for you, Jenny. What could the Global Tobacco Harm Reduction Community do to help your efforts in Taiwan?
For THR tobacco Home Direction community, I suggest that if we can developing a new convention, like I say Fctsc, it means Framework Convention on Tobacco Smoke Control. Because right now, the wsho FDTC, we keep communicating with them, but they never listen to us. So for every country I believe in the world, every government, they will take the subjection from FCTC and to make layer local law to Worldly Tobacco or Vaping or other nicotine products. So I'm thinking, if the Tobacco Harm Reduction Community could create a new convention to compete with FCTC, I believe there will be a milestone for nicotine efficacy.