The Vaping Products Association hosted a ground-breaking conference on the proposed smoking Bill (Tobacco Control and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Bill), which was released about three months ago by the Department of Health as part of its strategy to regulate smoking in South Africa. This ground-breaking conference was attended by a number of experts including international researchers covering the areas of harm-reduction and psychiatry. Also in attendance were retailers in the electronic cigarettes who, without doubt, will be affected by the proposed Bill if it goes through in its current form.
Two main strategic outcomes underpinned the hosting of this conference by the VPASA. Firstly, the conference sought to open up discussion around the proposed Bill both from the legal and economic perspective. Secondly, the conference sought to look at electronic smoking devices vis-à-vis traditional smoking products and look at international best practice in terms of how the two products are regulated.
One of the fundamental point which came across from all the experts in attendance is that electronic smoking devices are fundamentally different from traditional products and as such it does not make sense to subject the two to the same regulatory design as the proposed Bill seeks to do. The European Union for instance has taken cognisance of this fact based on existing scientific evidence and have separated the two. Since the release of the Bill for public comments three months ago the VPASA has consistently made this point that lumping electronic smoking devices together with traditional products is not desirable especially viewed from the point of view of scientific evidence. If anything, the current approach taken by the Department of Health will protect the traditional tobacco products and perpetuate the status-quo. This is a simple yet important fact which the association will continue to caution against in its engagement with the Department on the Bill. The Chief Executive Officer of the Association Ms Zodwa Velleman said in her address to the conference said last week, “all that we are asking for is to be heard”.
Our story as the vaping industry in South Africa is a story that is based on scientific evidence gathered over the past few years from a number of eminent scholars. It is this evidence which we would like to be considered as we shape the kind of regulatory regime which is sensible and realistic. Apart from South Africa, there are other countries such as New Zealand which went for a “one-and-the-same-thing” approach by lumping electronic smoking devices with traditional products but soon had to change course and split the two. As an industry body, we want to see a situation where there are alternatives created for the approximately 9 million smokers in our country. Over the past few months and weeks we have received thousands of submissions from ordinary South Africans telling their individual stories of how they have switched from traditional smoking products and how this switch has changed their lives. These are stories of ordinary men and women which cannot go unheard.
The vaping industry presents members of the public with less harmful safer alternatives and this is the route we would wish for the Department of Health to consider.