It has been a couple of weeks since the unbanning of the sale of Electronic Vaping Products (EVPs). The move to Level 1 is testament to South Africa’s good progress in managing the spread of the virus. This is also testament to the fact that government ‘fears’ about vaping contributing to the spread and severity of Covid never founded.
When government announced the ban on smoking and EVPs at the beginning of the lockdown, the main issue raised was about the effects of e-cigarette use (and smoking) on the vulnerability to, and severity of coronavirus infection. The ban remained in place for months, despite a considerable number of studies proving that there is no link between vaping and risk of hospitalization due to coronavirus (Covid-19). One of those studies was conducted by Cardiologist Konstantinos Farsalinos and found that “An unexpectedly low prevalence of current smoking was observed among hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Hospitalized current smokers had higher odds compared to non-current smokers, but lower odds compared to former smokers for an adverse outcome.”
Had government been willing to openly engage on the science behind vaping and the evidence relied on to effect the ban on the sale of EVPs, a lot of pain experienced by EVP manufacturers, shop owners and consumers could have been avoided. The failure of government to engage has led to the permanent closure of vaping shops due to lack of income. Unfortunately, many EVP users were forced to revert to smoking due to the widespread of cigarettes compared to EVPs, a truly regrettable outcome given the pressing need to get more smokers to adopt vaping instead of smoking.
Now that the link between vaping and the exacerbation of Covid has been disproved, it is time for government to engage with the industry on the science behind vaping. This is to ensure regulation of the industry is based on sound research and science. Regulation of the vaping industry should not be stifling and should ensure that EVPs form part of harm reduction strategies in the country. EVPs have been proven to be 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco and countries such as the UK and New Zealand have adopted EVPs as part of their harm reduction strategies.