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HR 101 – To Smoke or Not to Smoke – The E-Cigarette

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Please note that this pertains to South African Labour Relations and Best Practice requirements

By now, here in South Africa, we should all be aware of the fact that it is illegal to smoke in a public place, in terms of the Tobacco Products Control Act.

It would appear however, that not everyone is aware of the amendments thereto. Nowadays it is also illegal to smoke on a balcony that is semi or fully enclosed, or where there is a ‘fixed’ or permanent roof unless certain criteria has been complied with. It is also an offence to smoke at the mall entrances and parking garages and in fact anywhere where there is a fixed roof. As I look around me at the various establishments, particularly in the food and beverage arena, I see very clearly that very few individuals or companies are actually aware of the new legislation. Sadly, many of them will learn the hard way when they are fined for non-compliance. Let me be very clear on this – the fines that can be imposed are really, really large and can cripple you in terms of cash flow, if you are caught.

Whilst I am saddened by the number of youngsters, who I see smoking, on the one hand, I am also encouraged on the other, by the number of people who have stopped smoking or, who are attempting to stop smoking.

One of the most innovative ways of attempting to stop smoking is a little invention called the e-cigarette.

The electronic cigarette (hence the name e-cigarette) is also known as the personal vaporizer. What it is, is a ‘battery powered device that provides inhaled doses of nicotine by way of a vaporized solution.” The e-cigarette is marketed as ‘an alternative to smoking tobacco products” and since there is no tobacco smoke or combustion and only a ‘water vapour’ that is released into the air. Therefore smoking an e-cigarette in a public place, in South Africa, is completely compliant and within the letter of the law in terms of laid down legislation.

Let me explain.

The e-cigarette does not qualify as a tobacco product as it is an ‘electronic device’. It does not create any dangerous by products. It does not release tobacco smoke into the air and therefore there is no possibility of “second hand smoke” inhalation.

There are several countries who are extreme and who also do not allow the use of the e-cigarette – these countries are (but not limited to), Australia, Brazil and Canada.

The Tobacco Act defines the smoking of tobacco products as ‘a product containing tobacco that is intended for human consumption and includes, but is not limited to, any device, pipe, water pipe, papers, tubes, filters, portion pouches or similar objects manufactured for use in the consumption of tobacco’.

In view of the fact that the e-cigarette is an electronic device that contains a mouthpiece, heating element, battery and electronics, it is not used to consume tobacco and it does not contain any tobacco product (the nicotine is used in a diluted form).

Therefore in terms of the Act, this device is not prohibited and the e-cigarette can therefore be used freely and without fear of non-compliance, in all public areas.

Does that also mean that it is not harmful to you? Afraid not . . recent studies have evidenced that the harm to your lungs is even greater than what normal cigarette smoke does. So think about it carefully before your start.

The decision however, is always yours.