In this Monday, June 17, 2019, photo, Joshua Ni, 24, and Fritz Ramirez, 23, vape from electronic cigarettes in San Francisco. San Francisco supervisors are considering whether to move the city toward becoming the first in the United States to ban all sales of electronic cigarettes in an effort to crack down on youth vaping. The plan would ban the sale and distribution of e-cigarettes, as well as prohibit e-cigarette manufacturing on city property. (AP Photo/Samantha Maldonado)
Johannesburg - While the proposed new smoking laws seeks to focus mainly on traditional cigarettes, it will also affect users of electronic devices.

The draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill has been published and was opened for public comment last year.

The draft legislation, which proposes controlling electronic cigarettes, is with the Department of Health.

From there it will be set before the Cabinet for discussion before it is tabled in Parliament.

Although many of the electronic devices, commonly known as vapes, contain harmful chemicals such as nicotine, organisations, manufacturers and distributors argue that traditional cigarettes and electronic ones shouldn’t be grouped together when considering legislation and regulation.

Bernard Loots, the founder of Kush Koncepts, a vaping lifestyle product brand, e-liquid manufacturer and distributor, said the proposed laws were similar to equating heroin and dagga as equally harmful drugs.

“Normal cigarettes kill more than 8million people per year and comprises more than 4000 chemicals while e-liquid used in electronic cigarettes has only four ingredients.

“Electronic cigarettes have been shown to aid cessation of tobacco in up to 80% of case studies.”

The sentiments were echoed during a vaping industry conference in Sandton last year when scientists, policymakers, and medical and public health professionals gathered to examine the latest scientific research and evidence on e-cigarettes as well as debate their impact.

During the gathering, Zodwa Velleman, the chief executive of the Vapour Products Association of South Africa, argued that the bill, which “lumped e-cigarettes and cigarettes in the same regulatory basket”, was unscientific and potentially devastating.

“Vaping products must be regulated separately,” she said

“International evidence shows they are at least 95% less harmful, and countries that have embraced them, like the UK and the US, have seen their smoking rates plummet in recent years.”

She said the new Tobacco Bill threatened to deprive millions of citizens of a safer alternative to smoking.

“The reality is that millions of smokers who might switch to safer alternatives will just keep smoking and dying instead, as a result of this new law.”

Velleman believed the bill would not only be disastrous for South African smokers looking for less harmful alternatives, but would also see thousands of jobs go up in smoke.

An economic impact study by Canback Consulting, unveiled at the conference, showed that the vaping market in South Africa was worth more than R1billion and supports 4000 full-time jobs.

“The e-cigarette market is projected to grow aggressively and will more than triple in the next decade. This will happen only if the government separates e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products in the new bill,” said Velleman.

Meanwhile, Loots said that while he believed there was a need for legislation around the use of electronic cigarettes, there shouldn’t be a complete ban on electronic cigarettes.

“The regulations around electronic cigarettes should focus on stronger restrictions on the sale and use of these products, especially relating to minors.”

He said people who choose to smoke electronic cigarettes should be free to do so but it should not infringe on the rights of non-smokers in public spaces.