VPASA About South Africa’s Proposed Tobacco Bill

The Bill is expected to propose stricter vaping regulations, and restrictions on the use, marketing, and sales of certain tobacco products in South Africa.

The new Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill, was first announced last May by Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla, and is currently being reviewed. The Bill is expected to propose stricter e-cigarettes and vaping regulations, and restrictions on the use, marketing, and sales of certain tobacco products in South Africa. Moreover, it would set in place a provision allowing the government to implement a “100% public cigarette ban”.

However, the most detrimental aspect of the bill is that it fails to acknowledge the relative benefits of tobacco harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes, and would regulate them in the same way as regular cigarettes. In an article on Biz Community Gcoyi points out that the vaping industry is “alarmed by the false parallel that government and anti-tobacco activists are drawing between the different products.”

Regulations should be relative to risks

To this effect, the VPASA is urging the government to appropriately differentiate between combustible tobacco products and safer alternatives, refer to the available scientific data and regulate accordingly.

“Regulatory decisions should always be based on scientific facts rather than perception, ideological leanings or, even worse, misinformation. Unfortunately, electronic vapour products (EVPs) have tended to suffer from widespread misinformation, driven in no small part by anti-tobacco lobbyists and health authorities who deem EVPs as similar in danger to smoking, despite the preponderance of scientific evidence proving the contrary.”

She added that while public opinion has sadly been widely influenced by sensationalist and inaccurate media reporting, authorities should know better and turn to highly reputable research institutions, who are advising governments across the globe. “These institutions include Public Health England (PHE), the Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research, Action on Smoking and Health and many others. These organisations are tied by the science that EVPs are 95% less harmful than traditional smoking, a staggering achievement,” she said.

The strategy adopted by the UK would be a good model to follow

In line with arguments by countless health experts, Gcoyi highlighted that the strategy adopted by the UK would be an ideal one to model. “VPASA has consistently advised the government to carefully study the example of the UK, which is a world leader in EVP regulation. Our organisation is not anti-regulation, as some may wish to suggest.”

“Rather, we are for sensible, measured and effective regulation, of which the UK seems to have found a workable model. VPASA wants to see appropriate, evidence-based policies, which enable consumers to make informed decisions about their choice of nicotine products. The bill, as it stands, runs contrary to this objective.”

“We believe that imposing the same restrictions on all ENDS as on traditional combustible tobacco products is problematic for a number of reasons. For one, standardised packaging and labelling for all ENDS products will restrict the dissemination of relevant educational information. The requirement for graphic health warnings standardised across all products will represent the dangers of smokers as there are no known graphics that can be displayed on EVPs.”

“Concealing products at point-of-sale misses an opportunity to bring awareness to smokers about the products. At the same time, banning all forms of product communication will unduly restrict the industry from communicating with smokers who wrongly believe that EVPs are equally or more harmful than smoking.”

Actions by South Africa’s Government Suggest Another Possible Tobacco Sales Ban

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