Durban - Vaping has taken the world by storm, but the question remains, just how healthy or unhealthy are the vapours inhaled by smokers and bystanders?
Health experts have warned that vapers need to be aware of the serious health risks, and anti-smoking activists have driven amendments to the Tobacco Products Control Act, which aims to restrict the use of e-cigarettes.
However, manufacturers have claimed their products are safer.
Johnny Moloto, head of external affairs at British American Tobacco South Africa, the manufacturers of Twisp - arguably the most popular vaping device in the country - said e-cigarettes should be treated differently from traditional cigarettes.
“Vapour products do not produce smoke, ash or second-hand smoke, and evidence to date shows that their emissions do not pose any significant health risks to bystanders,” he said.
“It is generally accepted that the risks associated with cigarettes derive mainly from the burning of the tobacco and not the presence of nicotine; and the key thing to understand about our range of potentially reduced-risk products is that none of them involve burning tobacco.”
However Heart and Stroke Foundation chief executive officer, Professor Pamela Naidoo, disagreed.
“Public use, indoor and outdoor use is not acceptable. These devices emit vapour and smoke which is harmful to the environment and consequently harmful to the individuals who inhale the polluted air.”
Naidoo said the only difference was that e-cigarettes had a lower quantity of nicotine. However, she said nicotine combined with other poisonous ingredients did not render the devices any healthier than traditional cigarettes.
“The damage is caused by the cumulative effects of nicotine and other poisonous ingredients contained in the devices. Ultimately, this causes similar harm to tobacco smoking,” Naidoo said.
National Council Against Smoking executive director, Savera Kalideen, explained that vaping could cause cardiovascular disease because the ultra-fine particles released in the vapour could easily be deposited into the deeper parts of the respiratory system.
“The extent of the harm that these devices cause is not fully known. There is enough evidence to show that inhaling these fumes can result in pulmonary inflammation, impaired immunity and reduced lung function,” said Kalideen.
Proposed amendments to the Tobacco Products Control Act, which have been approved by the World Health Organisation, include that e-cigarettes can only be used in designated spaces where cigarettes are smoked.
Department of Health spokesperson, Popo Maja, said the department was currently finalising the proposed changes.
But it seems some vapers are not heeding the health warnings.
Reaal Maharaj,19, said he believed vapes were safe. He started smoking because it was a trend.
“I believe there’s nothing wrong with this and that it has no harmful effects,” he said.
Sunny Naidoo, 64, who gave up smoking for e-cigarettes, said he had managed to cut down on smoking.
“I used to smoke a box a day, but now with this I manage to save almost R600 a month. It’s revolutionary. It’s like you are smoking a cigarette with less harmful effects,” Naidoo said.