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Vaping activists say the latest tobacco bill is ignorant and not based on scientific evidence. The vaping industry says it wants to be seen as a partner in South Africa's health agenda because it is less harmful than smoking.

The Africa Harm Reduction Alliance (AHRA) says its intention is to give simple messaging to individuals who want to stop smoking.

Dr Delon Human, co-founder of AHRA and president of Health Diplomats, says the government wants to treat e-cigarettes in the same way that tobacco products are treated, falsely conflating vaping with smoking tobacco and, equally falsely, attributing the rise in the vaping industry to tobacco companies.

In May, the cabinet approved the draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, which proposes a ban on smoking in all public buildings - and within 10 metres of buildings. It also advocates for plain packaging with pictorial health warnings and a ban on smoking in private cars carrying passengers.

The bill extends the definition of smoking to include electronic delivery systems (e-cigarettes) and heat-not-burn tobacco products.

According to Human, who says AHRA is an independent organisation that does not endorse any industry products, vaping and e-cigarettes are less harmful than cigarettes.

“Vaping and e-cigarettes have the potential to prevent tobacco-related disease and save hundreds of millions of lives from premature death. For the sake of population and individual health, it is imperative that vaping is recognised as an alternative to combustible tobacco products, within the broader context of tobacco harm reduction,” Human said, arguing that new research showing that vaping products are 95 to 99% safer than combustible smoking.

Earlier this year, Dr Stanton Glantz from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) found that “while e-cigarettes deliver lower levels of carcinogens than conventional cigarettes, they also expose users to high levels of ultra-fine particles and other toxins linked to increased cardiovascular and non-cancer lung disease risks - which account for more than half all smoking-caused deaths.”

Researchers at the UCSF’S Center for Tobacco Research said e-cigarettes are widely promoted as a smoking cessation aid, but for most people, they actually make it harder to quit as they end up as "dual users" who keep smoking while using e-cigarettes.

AHRA co-founder Dr Kgosi Letlape said the current bill was based on 2015 information and takes a moralistic position. “As a health activist I am targeting smokers. I am not trying to open a market for new smokers or new vapers And because you are targeting a particular population it should not be difficult to talk about adding new information to that bill.” - Health-e News.