South Africa Debating Vaping Benefits And Regulation

The National Council Against Smoking is arguing that e-cigarettes should be regulated like tobacco, others acknowledge their harm reduction, saying they should be controlled accordingly

The debate over how to properly regulate vaping is going on across the world. Countries like Great Britain have embraced e-cigarettes, while others have deemed them an equivalent to combustible cigarettes and therefore in need of strict regulation. Currently, this debate is reaching a boiling point in South Africa, where the government is in discussion over what is the correct course of action.

Members of the anti-tobacco lobby are pushing for the inclusion of vaping into the country’s Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act. Currently vaping has not been affected because the law’s wording requires the presence of tobacco. The proposed change has been brought into question by vaping advocates, citing the success of e-cigarettes to help smokers get off of a much more harmful habit. Both sides are making their best arguments to legislators, setting up a battle for vaping rights in the country.

Concerns About Vaping

South Africa has had a strong stance against traditional smoking since the first version of the Tobacco Products Control Act was passed in 1993. But vaping has so far been exempt from the strong regulations on tobacco regarding their ingredients, labels, and advertising. This stance appears to be at risk with a spokesman for The South African Department of Health, Popo Maja, recently saying that vaping is directly causing a renormalization of smoking in society. Inferring that since often advertised as being a harm reduction tool, they lead to people seeing them as altogether harmless.

The Executive Director of the National Council Against Smoking, Savera Kalideen, recently said that even though vaping was invented to help people off cigarettes, she claims that many non-smokers use them. Although she acknowledges that they shouldn’t be compared to combustible cigarettes, the fact remains that including vaping into existent anti-smoking regulations only drives the poor public understanding of their relative risk. Ms. Kalideen does make a point to try and differentiate between vaping and smoking. But studies show that the general public sees them as just as, if not more dangerous than cigarettes, and this is in part because of the insistence of governments to lump them together in legislation.

In Defense Of E-Cigarettes

Many experts are working against these anti-vaping claims from government officials. Several of them met earlier this year to discuss their possible courses of action moving forward. The group included Dr. Delon Human, co-founder of the Africa Harm Reduction Alliance, Dr. Kgosi Letlape, president of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, head of the Lung Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, along with public health expert, Clive Bates.

This group of academics identified several legitimate concerns about the prospect of including vaping into the South African TCPA. This included simple arguments about their extreme harm reduction value, pointing out the advantage given to cigarette companies by equating vaping with smoking, and reasoning for altogether separate legislation for vaping.

Separately, the Director of South Africa’s Vapor Product Association, Kabir Kaleechurn, recently went on the record against this association of smoking and vaping saying, “The two smoking processes are different. Tobacco smoking relies on burning of tobacco, the cause of all cigarette-smoking health risks, while vaping relies on a gentle heating process to deliver its nicotine.” He went on to discuss how the overall societal benefit if all smokers switched to vaping, would be astronomical.


The best research from all over the world has started to reach the same conclusions; vaping is a whole lot safer than smoking. The now famous, 2015 study from Public Health England found that vaping is upwards of 95% safer than tobacco. Not only that, but e-cigarettes are also shown to be a very useful smoking cessation tool, with over half of daily users reporting they quit smoking. A recent study out of Georgetown University found that nearly seven million lives would be saved across the US if all smokers suddenly switched to vaping.

All of this information points to the need to supplement use of vaping as opposed to strict regulations against it. By treating vaping like smoking, we have caused much of the public to see them as the same. But if we work toward regulating both based on their respective harm levels with separate pieces of legislation, we can start to change this undeserved reputation of e-cigarettes.

Do you think that vaping and smoking should be regulated separately? How many non-smokers do you know who picked up vaping regularly? Do you believe that vaping is renormalizing smoking in society? Let us know in the comments.

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