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Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, is no stranger to tobacco legislation.

His stance on curbing the sale, advertising and use of cigarettes is well known, but now he wants to increase the Health Department’s scope to more than just the tobacco industry by going after ecigarettes.

In a recent interview with SABC on World No Tobacco Day, Motsoaledi said that electronic cigs should be treated the same way as normal tobacco cigarettes.

“We are looking at it very carefully. In the last framework (at the) Convention on Tobacco Control of the World Health Organisation held in South Korean recently, the decision was that we need to package ecigarettes as just any other type of cigarette,” he said.

Ecigarettes, instead of burning tobacco leaves, make use of liquids, which are heated by coils – much like a kettle. The resulting vapour that is produced by the evaporating liquid is inhaled by users. Think of it as inhaling the steam that is produced by a kettle – the mechanics are identical.

The Minister added that the ecig industry is trying to trick Health Departments across the world by making zero-nicotine ecigarette liquid (the liquid that gets vaporised).

“There is a trick here. Some ecigarettes have nicotine, which means they are just as bad as cigarettes – other don’t have nicotine,” he said. “Now that is a trick by the industry, saying that governments must only deal with those that have nicotine, which means I as a minister must now spend money to find out which ones do not have nicotine.”

“So the decision around the world from Ministers of Health is, ‘hey, do away with everything. It is not our job, it is the industry’s job’,” he added. “There is also a belief that those that don’t have nicotine, is introducing youngsters to smoking. When they start catching it, the next level is to go to real cigarettes.”

Motsoaledi’s comments about ecigarettes being a gateway to the smoking tobacco don’t seem to line up with current research co, which says that in 99% of cases, it is actually the other way around.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently set out Deeming Rights (guidelines) that ecigarettes should be classified as ‘tobacco products’.

The FDA also added that ecigarettes stores that produce their own liquid for use in ecigarettes are considered tobacco manufacturers, so anybody making their own juice is now a tobacco product manufacturer.

Among the other regulations set out by the FDA, this will have an impact on where people can use their ecigarettes if they fall into the same strict tobacco laws.

South Africa has historically been a leader in introducing tobacco laws, and if Motsoaledi turns to the FDA regulations, South Africa could follow suit in classifying ecigarettes as tobacco products.

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