Anti-tobacco lobbyists want legislation amended to include the latest smoking craze, which some say also has harmful effects.
Executive director of the National Council Against Smoking Savera Kalideen said vaping products should not be compared to cigarettes, but compared to itself as it came with its own harms.
“We agree the law (Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act) should be amended, because there is evidence that it harms. It is not covered under the law because there were not e-cigarettes or vaping when the law was passed.”
Kalideen said they were not marketed correctly in South Africa and were not being used correctly by some.
“We know they contain nicotine and they can lead to increased blood pressure, lung disease and damage to the heart. You can use them on your journey to quit, they are a tool to give up. They are still harmful and are not risk free.”
She added that we were often told that e-cigs were less harmful than cigarettes.
“It was initially designed to stop people smoking, but now they are selling it to everybody and you find them being used by people that have never smoked before, and it was never designed for that.”
Kabir Kaleechurn, director of South Africa’s Vapour Product Association (VPA), said they were concerned about the product being regulated.
“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.
“It is probably the word ‘cigarette’ used for both products that is causing legislative confusion.
“In many countries, the legislation places e-cigarettes in the same category as tobacco. In South Africa, e-cigarettes are not covered by the Tobacco Products Control Act, or by the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act. It seems that the act of combustion and smoke preclude e-cigarettes being regarded as cigarettes.
“They also do not fall under the Medicines Act as they are marketed solely for recreational purposes.”
He said the VPA viewed vaping as weaning people off tobacco smoking by still offering the hit experienced by nicotine - medically regarded as the least dangerous of the all the substances found in tobacco cigarettes.
“The Vaping Industry needs to be considered as a partner to the health agenda in South Africa.
"Should all smokers move to harm-reduced vaping products, the impact is bound to be extremely positive from a non-communicable diseases point of view.
"It is our duty to ensure we provide a safer alternative to the millions of smokers in the country,” he said.
National Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said that although there were plans to amend to include vaping, the pastime did contribute to normalising smoking behaviour.
“Vaping is being marketed as a 'safe' alternative to smoking. Some vapours may be less harmful than smoking normal cigarettes, but the reality is, it is not harmless and contributes to normalising smoking behaviour.”
The Vending Association of South Africa is deeply concerned about a pronouncement that cigarette vending machines could soon be banned. Association chairperson Max Hurwitz said the government should consult them to find an amicable solution.