E-cigarettes are not the enemy

October 10, 2015 Cape Argus

The Electronic-cigarette Association of South Africa (Easa) is disappointed and concerned at recent comments by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi that “we can’t exclude a total ban altogether’ on e-cigarettes and that e-cigarette companies are looking for “loopholes”.

To insinuate that the e-cigarette sector is acting duplicitously is disingenuous. Easa met the minister and offered him our full support for any efforts to ensure responsible trading within a regulated industry. The minister conceded at the meeting that there was not enough research available to pronounce on e-cigarettes.

Consequently when a report commissioned by the UK government agency Public Health England confirmed that e-cigarettes are 95 percent safer than normal cigarettes and, importantly, that “there is no evidence, so far, that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers” and “when supported by a smoking cessation service, help most smokers to quit tobacco altogether” – we immediately forwarded it to the minister for his information.

The South African expert who helped introduce our tobacco legislation, Dr Derek Yach of Vitality Group, said in response to the minister’s comments: “South Africa should heed the advice and approach of the British government, researchers and lead groups like the Royal College of Physicians. They unambiguously state that smokers will reduce their risks of premature death and disease by at least 95% by switching to e-cigs and other reduced risk products. Doctors who fail to say this, leave smokers believing that their products are safer than the reduced-risk alternatives. That is both unethical clinical advice and bad policy.”

We sincerely hope the minister will reconsider his comments and embark on a collaborative process with all stakeholders to legislate in a way that will save and improve lives.

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