Earlier this year, there was a heated (sic) exchange in the Daily Maverick over the merits and demerits of e-cigarettes. Daily Maverick opinionista, Ivo Vegter, published an opinion piece calling on the World Health Organisation to support vaping and e-cigarette use as a positive harm reduction strategy. His position was criticized by a network of public health researchers, who argued that there was no evidence to support his position, but that, on the contrary, there were substantial grounds for public health concern if e-cigarettes were to be promoted without regulation. Vegter, in true Vegter style, took exception to these arguments. Here, we provide a point-by-point analysis of his claims which comprehensively rebutt (sic!) his arguments.
The landscape of e-cigarette politics and research is highly contested, given the enormous financial stakes at play. Public health researchers and activists need to familiarize themselves with the issues otherwise public policy decisions risk being made without adequate evidence. South Africa’s National Department of Health is currently processing a bill that will introduce regulation of e-cigarettes and related vaping products. Watch that space for more smoke and mirrors – and be well informed!