Is Vaping nothing but a smoke screen?

According to Dr Jacques Snyman, director and clinical advisor for Agility Africa, Resolution Health’s administrator, there used to be a stage in the not-too-distant past that cigarette smoking was actually considered cool. “However, in recent years there has been a definitive change in attitudes towards smoking. The fact that someone smokes can actually be a deal breaker when it comes to dating and choosing a partner,” says Dr Snyman.

However, despite the stringent tobacco control legislation in South Africa, there are fears that the new trend of ‘e-cigarettes’ or ‘vaping’ might make smoking glamorous again, especially among younger members of society. These products exist in an almost regulatory vacuum and the consequences of the marketing, advertising and sale of these products, especially on the youth, may unravel the progress South Africa has so far achieved.  “It is important to know what you are using when you drag on an e-cigarette and not to get caught up in the marketing hype of it being a healthier option,” says Dr Snyman.

Things to consider before you “vape”*

  • While e-cigarettes are smoke-free and tobacco-free, they're not nicotine-free. The liquid in e-cigarettes typically consists of a combination of nicotine, flavourings, glycol (a solvent) and other additives.


  • Liquid nicotine is extracted from tobacco but, unlike tobacco leaves, liquid nicotine can be lethal. It can cause harm when it's inhaled, ingested or absorbed through your skin. Only a small dose is dangerous, in fact, less than one tablespoon of many of the e-liquids on the market is enough to kill an adult and as little as a teaspoon could kill a child.


  • Health experts aren't sure just how safe e-cigarettes actually are. Among their concerns is the lack of disclosure when it comes to the ingredients used as well as the lack (or validity) of health and safety claims by manufacturers about their products. In 2009, for example, the American FDA found some cartridges of liquid nicotine contained approximately 1% diethylene glycol (DEG), a toxic chemical ingredient also found in antifreeze.


  • Despite the claims that they're a safe alternative to regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes may not completely solve the problem of second-hand exposure to nicotine. Nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes is real, although studies suggest that it’s far less from e-cig vapours when compared to the smoking of regular cigarettes. 


  • Despite the marketing claims that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking tobacco, researchers are finding e-cig users experience diminished lung function, airway resistance and cellular changes, regardless of whether or not they currently (or ever) smoke cigarettes. In fact, cells exposed to e-cigarette vapour in a lab environment showed unhealthy changes similar to cells exposed to tobacco smoke.

*Taken from

“When it comes to e-cigarettes, the lines are often blurred and South Africa may just be taking ‘one step forward and two steps back’ in the fight to create a smoke-free society without having a well-defined and implemented regulatory framework for the sale and consumption of e-cigarettes,” Dr Snyman concludes.