Vaping is a common practice among South African teenagers, with many parents allowing their children to smoke nicotine-free e-cigarettes, believing them to be safer than tobacco, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
According to the report, regulation to control the use of e-cigarettes is in development, but there has been little progress made on the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems Bill in the last year.
The National Council Against Smoking observed that the number of e-cigarette retailers has quickly expanded in this unregulated environment, despite the reported health risks.
“There is plenty of evidence already to show that e-cigarettes are harmful to the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and other parts of the body,” the council told the Sunday Times.
“Whit these lung-related deaths, we are seeing new levels of harm.”
UCT child and adolescent health department associate professor Anthony Westwood stated that the adoption of vaping among teenagers could serve to normalise smoking tobacco products, presenting further health risks.
“Widespread use of e-cigarettes and vaping is likely to renormalise smoking in the eyes of children, reversing years of progress in cultural change regarding the unacceptability of smoking in any form,” he said.
In South Africa’s unregulated environment, there are concerns that teenagers and other e-cigarette users may be at risk of contracting potentially deadly vaping-related conditions as seen in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned against the dangers of vaping as the number of people afflicted by a mysterious “vape lung” condition continues to increase.
It was reported that around 450 people were thought to be affected by this condition, with as many as five dying from it.
No definite cause has yet been established for the lung affliction, although most cases involve products which use THC as well as nicotine.
This observation was echoed by British American Tobacco Southern Africa head of external affairs Johnny Moloto, who told the Sunday Times that South African e-cigarette users should buy reputable products.
“The key to safe vaping is to use reputable products,” he said. “These cases highlight the importance of effective regulation and enforcement to ensure product safety.”
The CDC recommended that people should refrain from using e-cigarette products altogether until a specific cause of the “vape lung” affliction was determined.
“While this investigation is ongoing, people should consider not using e-cigarette products,” the CDC said.
“People who do use e-cigarette products should monitor themselves for symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever) and promptly seek medical attention for any health concerns.”
The CDC added that e-cigarette users should not modify their products or add substances not intended by the manufacturer.