On the 27th of March, South African authorities banned the sales of cigarettes as part of the current COVID-19 lockdown. Subsequently as restrictions were starting to be eased, in April it was announced that cigarette sales would be allowed to resume as of May 1st, however this decision was reconsidered at a later date.

Another concern is vapers going back to smoking or purchasing vape products on the black market.
The bans on tobacco products and alcohol sales announced in March, sadly included safer alternatives such as e-cigarettes and snus. Naturally this had many angered. Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) chief executive Asanda Gcoyi reiterated that treating cigarettes and safer alternatives in the same manner poses a significant problem.

“Vaping is not smoking, those are two different things. Both vaping and cigarettes contain nicotine, but nicotine is not what kills people in smoking, people die because of the tar,” she said.

“There are world associations that are pushing for tobacco harm reduction,” she said referring to entities such as Public Health England, “.. and South Africa is one of those countries, so it baffles us that we know what we know, yet we’re choosing to pretend that we don’t know the science and that vaping is less harmful,” she added.

Vaping products should be allowed online and by delivery

The VPASA is urging the government to allow vapour products to be purchased online and by delivery during lockdown level 3. She added that besides health reasons, the economic impact needs to be considered aswell. “We’ve got about 5000 direct jobs that are at risk and we’ve about 400-500 small businesses across South Africa, and a lot are on the brink of bankruptcy because they can’t sell,” she said.

In line with arguments by international health experts, Gcoyi added that another concern is vapers going back to smoking or purchasing vape products on the black market. “My other concern is the illicit market. People are buying vape juice from shops we know nothing about, we hear it’s available at spaza shops, stories that people are mixing juices at home, which is extremely dangerous, because they are just mixing things and the environment is not right.”

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In-house journalist covering international vaping news.