The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, released for public comment recently, aims to outlaw smoking in public.
But at the weekend the Japan Tobacco International (JTI) launched a “Hands Off My Choices” campaign, saying the bill was a threat to people’s freedom of choice.
The JTI campaign comes a few days after a media round-table hosted by the industry-funded Africa Harm Reduction Alliance (Ahra), which accused Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi of legislating out of fear of the unknown. It claims the bill is not informed by any scientific proof.
The alliance promotes electronic cigarettes and claims they are “95% safer” than cigarettes. But its co-founder, Dr Delon Human, has been unable to share the research on which its claim was based.
But researchers at the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Germany have found puffing e-cigarettes has a significant negative impact on cardiovascular function and can be as dangerous as cigarettes.
In the newly published study, participants either smoked a cigarette, a nicotine-based e-cigarette or a nicotine-free e-cigarette for five minutes, and their vital signs were monitored as they smoked and for two hours afterwards.
Smokers of e-cigarettes experienced the same, or even higher levels of cardiovascular elevation, and for longer periods than the cigarette smokers.
The National Council Against Smoking (Ncas) has claimed that there was enough evidence, even within the South African context, to show e-cigarettes were just as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes.
Ncas executive director Savera Kalideen said: “The issue is not whether the e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible smoking, it’s whether they are healthy or not.
“They are not safe because of the toxins they contain. They are also addictive because they contain nicotine.
“E-cigarettes can lead to heart and lung disease as well as cancer for smokers.” The organisation said cardiovascular disease killed more people than any other cause of death worldwide, and tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure contributed to about 12% of all heart disease-related deaths.
Curiously, the Vapour Products Association managed to enlist the support of Dr Kgosi Letlape, president of the Health Professions Council, to promote e-cigarettes.
Letlape, an Ahra co-founder, spoke at the organisation’s media round-table, claiming doctors had a duty to encourage smokers to move to e-cigarettes.
However, Letlape has denied he was promoting e-cigarettes and said he was an advocate for harm reduction.
“I was speaking at an event organised by the vaping industry and I spoke about vaping as one method of harm reduction.
“There’s a difference between advocating for harm reduction and promoting e-cigarettes products.
“I am not connected to any vaping society, I do not endorse any vaping products and I do not get compensation or payment from the e-cigarette industry,” he said.
Kalideen welcomed the tobacco bill, saying: “The bill is saying that it is possible for people who don’t smoke to breathe clean air in public spaces.
“A cigarette contains 700 chemicals, over 75% of which cause cancer the industry is saying smokers should be allowed to smoke in public. But we believe their actions expose non-smokers to dangerous chemicals.”
Department of Health spokesperson Foster Mohale said the vaping industry’s rejection of the bill was not supported by facts and evidence.
“The department’s objective is to protect health, whereas the industry is interested in pushing demand and supply of the tobacco products to gain profit,” said Mohale.
The public has until August 9 to comment on the bill and can send their comments to [email protected]