Cigarettes must now be regulated differently to vaping – informal traders.

The South African Informal Traders Alliance (SAITA) says vaping should be regulated differently from other tobacco products like cigarettes in order to encourage people to switch to less harmful forms of smoking.

SAITA secretary general, Michael Mokgoja, made the call while welcoming the National Department of Health’s stakeholder consultation process to develop an updated Socio-Economic Impact Assessment System (SEIAS) for the draft Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill.

SAITA has proposed that the Bill regulates harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco differently from cigarettes as this was essential to encourage people to switch from more dangerous combustible products such as cigarettes, to less harmful alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products. SAITA made this proposal at a stakeholder engagement session with the National Department of Health, along with a range of stakeholders.

“The SEIAS consultations could not have come at a better time. Much has changed since the original SEIAS was conducted in 2018, including increased evidence indicating that products which don’t burn tobacco are less harmful than those that do,” said Mokgoja.

“It is critical that legislation is created in response to the current realities on the ground and considers scientific evidence. Last week, SAITA’s NEC confirmed a resolution in support of the principle of harm reduction. This is based on the scientific findings that the main cause of harm from smoking is toxins released when burning tobacco, not nicotine. We have learned from this pandemic, that it is the scientists who we need to take advice from,” he said.

Mokgoja added that cigarettes are one of the most common products sold by informal traders, but people must be encouraged to switch to less harmful products.

“This will be good for our customers rather than smoking cigarettes, and good for our members who will be able to participate in this economic opportunity. Inclusivity and affordability are key to integrating these products into the informal market,” he said.

“Regulating them as strictly as cigarettes will ensure no smokers learns about why they are better than cigarettes, and implementing excessive taxes on them will drive up their prices, further alienating the informal market and putting them out of reach for millions of customers. It is for this reason that we are proposing to the Department of Health that harm reduction products, such as e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products, are regulated less restrictively than traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes,” Mokgoja added.

SAITA’s research showed that many countries have recognised that these new, less harmful alternative products require their own unique and science-backed regulation, to encourage smokers to switch. These countries include Uruguay, New Zealand, the EU, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

“Rather than amending the law later, once it becomes clear that it has problematic unintended consequences, Government should rather listen to the science and the people whom it affects, and amend the Draft Bill now,” he said.

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