Is vaping a good alternative?


Four health professionals gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Wednesday to discuss the current social matter of vaping as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes.

In November last year, South Africa’s health department released statements concerning its intention to integrate a ‘no compromise’ position on vaping and vaping products, as well as its view that vaping is the equivalent of smoking cigarettes.

Dr Delon Human, co-founder of the Africa Harm Reduction Alliance, Clive Bates of Counterfactual, Dr Kgosi Letlape, president of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, and associate professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, head of the Lung Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, focused their discussion on the critical opportunity that South Africa has to decrease the harm of smoking by encouraging the use of vaping technology.

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According to Public Health England’s research, vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking cigarettes. Human argued,”Since those who smoke have a 50 per cent chance of dying from smoking-related diseases, vaping gives smokers a get out of jail free ticket – by providing a real route out of tobacco smoking – or at least a way to reduce the harmful effects of smoking by 95 per cent.”

Letlape added that smoking tobacco is known to have negative influences on HIV, tuberculosis and pneumonia in South Africa.

Quitting tobacco smoking entirely provides a 100 per cent safe solution, but cold-quitting is not possible for most tobacco addicts. Letlape argued, “South African legislators should not deny the country’s smokers an alternative that is more effective than existing nicotine replacement therapies.”

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Bates warned that by applying an anti-tobacco framework to vaping, which risks creating legislation that makes vaping products unappealing, difficult to access and ineffective as quitting mechanisms, would give the global tobacco industry a huge advantage. According to him, it would result in the promotion of tobacco products when the world is presented with a new technology that can entirely disrupt or even replace the tobacco industry.

According to the UK Centre for Alcohol and Tobacco Studies, there is no evidence that vaping poses a risk of harmful second-hand exposure. Van Zyl-Smit also argued, “Given all that we don’t know about the long term effects of vaping, it deserves separate legislative consideration.”

Kabir Kaleechum, director of the Vapour Products Association of South Africa, concluded that vaping has the potential to save lives and dramatically reduce the burden of smoking-related diseases on South Africa’s national health system.”


Nikita Fernandes

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