Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

The Vapour Product Association, which represents companies that sell e-cigarettes, is gearing up for a national campaign to oppose a proposed new law, which it says could send its industry up in a puff of smoke.

The Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill has been published for comment and contains proposals that, if enacted, would bring electronic delivery devices such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products under regulatory control for the first time.

The Vapour Product Association had hoped to see separate rules for these devices, but the bill gives them the same treatment as tobacco products such as cigarettes.

Sales restrictions

If the proposals go through, e-cigarette manufacturers will not be able to sell their products in vending machines, will have to use plain packaging and may not sell to people under the age of 18. Consumers will face tight restrictions on where they can vape, as the bill proposes more stringent limits on smoking in public places than the Tobacco Products Control Act, which it will replace.

The association said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had failed to consult the industry and had taken an overzealous approach to regulation that failed to acknowledge the benefits vaping provided.

"The measures proposed will in effect make it harder for a consumer to vape in SA than it is to smoke. Ultimately, this will halt current smokers and reverse existing vapers from starting or continuing the use of a scientifically proven harm-reduced product," it said.

Vapour Product Association director Kabir Kaleechurn said the vaping industry should be seen as a partner to the health agenda in SA.

"Should all smokers move to harm-reduced vaping products, the impact is bound to be extremely positive from a non-communicable diseases point of view. This has proved to be the case in the US, UK, Germany, France and other members of the EU," he said.

However, not everyone is convinced that vaping is a safe alternative to smoking tobacco. The health department’s Lorato Mahura has said that electronic delivery systems, which contain nicotine, pose health risks.

"The reality is they are not as toxic as cigarettes but are still toxic. Nicotine is harmful over time," she said.