Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death globally. For years, the tobacco industry sought to create a tobacco product that is less controversial than conventional cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes were created out of the supposed need to supply consumers of tobacco products with a less harmful tobacco product. The question remains, is it really less harmful for consumers of traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products to switch to electronic cigarettes? This article takes a closer look at the overall harm in relation to benefits of using electronic cigarettes for the individual and public health and the unintended negative consequences the introduction of electronic cigarette has had on overall public health. Given the evidence that the use of electronic cigarettes is a gateway to the use of other tobacco products especially among adolescents, we view electronic cigarettes as having the potential to cause a rebound of the tobacco use glut which the global public health community has been succeeding in reversing. We therefore support the World Health Organization’s suggestion that electronic cigarettes should be regulated as other tobacco products since there is, as yet, no harmless tobacco product. In the same vein, we view the new Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill seeking to regulate electronic cigarettes in South Africa as other tobacco products as a step in the right direction.
- Electronic cigarettes
- substance use