May 20, 2024

04 Oct
E-cigarettes and vaping devices in South Africa face tighter regulations as part of government’s latest tobacco plan that’s been passed onto Parliament.
South Africa’s getting tough on tobacco and nicotine. The department of health wants to deter people, especially children, from smoking, encourage users to quit, and protect non-smokers. To do this, the department has tabled the Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill, which was recently approved by Cabinet for submission to Parliament and will, once law, replace the old rules developed almost 30 years ago.
The bill distinguishes between traditional tobacco products, defined as those containing tobacco leaf, like cigarettes, and electronic nicotine delivery systems, defined as devices “designed to produce an aerosol or vapour inhaled by the user”, like vapes. Most regulations affecting traditional tobacco products extend to vapes and e-cigarettes, the sale and use of which have been largely unrestricted compared to their analogue associates.
The health department doesn’t differentiate between cigarette smokers and those who vape within the bill’s control segments. Both will be prohibited from smoking in any enclosed public space and even some open public spaces. Vaping or smoking an e-cigarette in private while in the presence of a child or non-smoker will also be forbidden, as it applies to traditional tobacco products, too.
Plain packaging with limited branding and emphasised graphic health warnings will adorn vaping products as they will cigarette boxes. Both categories of products won’t be displayed in stores and will only be made available at the request of the adult customer.
There are, however, a few regulations within the bill that are specifically targeted at electronic nicotine delivery systems.
The health minister will ultimately be responsible for defining the finer details within multiple regulations, including the content, composition, ingredients, additives, colourants, characterised flavour and emissions of a relevant product.
The bill highlights the minister’s powers to prohibit “any substance or ingredient that creates a specified colour, characterised flavour, smell, or effect on the consumer.” That puts the flavoured liquid solution used in vapes and e-cigarettes – commonly called e-liquid or vape juice – firmly at the mercy of the minister.
“The industry wants to be regulated. We have to be regulated,” Asanda Gcoyi, CEO of the Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA), told Business Insider SA in reacting to news of the bill’s progress to Parliament.
“But we propose that government use them [vapes and e-cigarettes] as a tobacco harm reduction product [and] this bill does not actually go that far.”
Despite Cabinet stating that the bill, first published in 2018, had “gone through extensive consultation with various stakeholders, including the tobacco industry”, VPASA, which represents manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers, wasn’t included in the most recent discussions and its initial feedback was ignored, said Gcoyi.
“For example, this proposal of a flavour ban, we saw that certain flavours may not be permitted [and] that goes against why it is so effective to use electronic nicotine delivery systems to move away from tobacco, because of the flavours,” said Gcoyi.
But South Africa isn’t the only country mulling the ban of flavoured e-liquids. Earlier this year, European Union lawmakers proposed a ban on the sale of flavoured, heated tobacco products, while the United States Food and Drug Administration has already banned “unauthorised flavoured cartridge-based e-cigarettes that appeal to children, including fruit and mint.”
And while the banning of flavours is aimed at reducing the use of vapes and e-cigarettes among the youth, recent studies, like the one recently published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, a peer-reviewed medical journal, show that flavoured tobacco sales restrictions do not have their intended impacts.
South Africa’s Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill also outlaws online retailers. While traditional tobacco products have already been banned for sale online and delivery, e-retailers play a major role in the vaping industry. Once law, the sale, supply, and distribution “of a relevant or related product to a consumer through the postal services, courier services, the internet or any other electronic medium” will be prohibited.
“If you look at the majority of the vaping industry, [it is] small businesses… and brick and mortar [retailer] in any industry are no longer attractive, especially coming out of Covid. So, to do away with that [online vaping stores], that kills a third of the industry already,” said Gcoyi.
“What we did, as part of our youth access prevention campaign, is that you’d have age gates on websites and in delivery, you partner with the courier company, that they don’t hand over products to people who are under the age of 18, requiring their ID. So, we’ve tried to self-regulate. It’s not perfect, but it is an intervention on the part of the industry.”

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