E-cigarettes are available for a retail price of between R200 and R1200, while refills cost between R70 and R160 for 20 ml. The devices are powered by either disposable batteries or rechargeable battery packs. Currently, the Tobacco Products Control Act does not address e-cigarettes and there is no legal consensus regarding their use indoors. The health effects of e-cigarettes are similarly unknown, as they have not been in use for long enough for the long-term health effects of the devices to be measured. Most manufacturers market their devices as less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, a claim that is yet to be proven. Likewise, the effects of second hand vapour from e-cigarettes are almost completely unknown.
Amal Maharaj, a second-year LLB student who suffers from Marfan syndrome, is greatly affected by second-hand smoke. He said, “All my friends are smokers, and this used to affect my lungs. Now that a lot of them are using e-cigarettes, it is not affecting me and I can breathe easier around them.”
However, not all students are rating e-cigarettes positively. Rishav Maharaj, a second-year Bcom Informatics student, said that after using an e-cigarette for almost 3 months he eventually gave in to smoking regular cigarettes, as e-cigarettes did not offer the same level of satisfaction. He added that while e-cigarettes may seem more cost effective, maintenance costs add up to more than the cost of cigarettes. Matthew Josiah, a second-year Quantity Surveying student who is a non-smoker, said that the vapour released by e-cigarettes could be just as harmful to others and the environment as tobacco smoke, and that e-cigarettes should be regulated as they can be bought anywhere without age restrictions or safety warnings. He added that he would not try an e-cigarette, as there is no information about the chemicals used in the devices and the effect it has. A second-year student who is a non-smoker and wishes to remain anonymous said that e-cigarettes still continue a smoker’s nicotine addiction, and that they should be avoided as they will not help a user to stop smoking and will still have negative effects on the body as the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown.
It remains to be seen if “vaping” will replace the traditional cigarette as we know them, however, it is clear that e-cigarettes are on the rise. The real question is whether this trend is part of an increased health consciousness, or just the next fashion fad.