Published on February 1st, 2017 | by Jimmy Hafrey
The question of whether or not vaping is a better alternative to smoking is a discussion that finds itself in the middle of a debate in South Africa, where it also finds an ally in Dr. Kgosi Letlape.
Letlape, the president of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, believes that the answer to the above question is simple. IOL is reporting that a recent panel briefing, Letlape said that: “It shouldn’t even be a contest. To me, it’s about alternatives to combustible cigarettes which have the highest degree of harm. It is about harm reduction in general and we need to get to a space where people have a choice.”
She went on to affirm that she does not believe that vaping is a good choice for those who don’t smoke, saying that: “We’re not advocating people start smoking. It’s not about saying start vaping (to non-smokers), it’s about those who do. It’s about [the] reduction of harm and not the extermination of harm.”
She’s found some headwind in the form of the country’s Health Minister, Aaron Mtosoaledi, who has adopted a fairly strong stance against vaping, saying that it is as bad as tobacco and should be banned from the country.
Advocates for vaping have time and again argued that it is not as dangerous as smoking, with the governing health body of the UK, Public Health England, coming to the conclusion last year that vaping is 95 percent less dangerous than smoking a traditional cigarette. Even a New York judge ruled last year that vaping was not smoking and clearly defined the act of smoking as the “burning of a lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe or another matter or substance which contains tobacco.”
And yet panelists that had gathered in Rosebank for the debate were left unmoved. Some attendees stated that there was simply not enough evidence available to South Africa to make the decision that vaping is a better alternative to smoking. Many have advocated for strong regulations on vaping until more evidence surfaces, but others, such as health activist Clive Bates, warned that over-regulating vaping would protect Big Tobacco by removing competition from the open market.
As the debate turned from the question to legislation and regulation, the panel attendees were in agreement that vaping, just like in the United States, should not be targeted towards children and non-smokers. However, many vaping advocates stated that those same guidelines should also not prevent vaping from being an alternative to traditional cigarettes.
While the debate over vaping is far from over for Letlape and her colleagues, the fact that vape advocates have decided not to promote it as a nicotine replacement therapy denotes a sense of resignation that the industry in South Africa may be facing far harsher legislation headwind than in America or in Europe.
This publication will continue to update readers on the vaping legislation process in South Africa.