The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) says it has established a National Technical Committee (TC) to develop South African National Standards to guide the use of e-cigarette and vaping products.
Currently, there are no guidelines or regulations for vaping production in South Africa, and the SABS will be responsible for setting guidelines and promoting standardisation in the field, covering electronic vaping products and their components including cartridges and reservoirs.
The bureau will also set out guidelines on terminology, sampling, methods of test and analysis, product specifications, safety, quality management and requirements for packaging, storage and transportation.
The SABS noted that vaping and vaping products are increasingly popular in South Africa both in terms of recreational use and in economic activity. It is estimated that about 350,000 people use vaping products and that sales in 2019 amounted to R1.25 billion.
“As the industry grows, there is a need to establish national standards that guide the quality of the products and provide consumers with some assurance that the electronic devices and products used in vaping are safe to use,” said Jodi Scholtz, lead administrator at the SABS.
The bureau will only focus on non-tabacco products.
Currently, the Department of Health has a draft bill on the control of Tabacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems that is undergoing public enquiry. The SABS said it will focus on vaping products and take into account the inclusions of the draft bill, with the knowledge that standards are voluntary in nature.
Vaping is the use of an inhalation device that vaporise liquid solutions which may contain nicotine and other ingredients.
Scholtz said that plans to host the first technical committee meeting are underway and will be confirmed as soon as commitment from regulators and other key stakeholders have been confirmed. The SABS stressed that it will develop national standards for voluntary application.
“Currently in South Africa and the African region, there are no guidelines/regulations for vaping products, the TC will review existing regional/international standards, guidelines, research, policies and other documents to develop voluntary national standards for South Africa.
“Once consensus has been reached amongst the TC participants, the draft standard will go through a public enquiry stage, wherein members of the public may comment and/or submit input into the draft standard. All comments are then taken into account in the next stage of developing the draft standard into a national standard (SANS),” said Scholtz.
Scholtz said that on average, it takes about 300 days to develop a national standard from scratch; however, the duration of the process is dependent on the availability and commitment of members of the TC, the availability of published research and documents, a consensus within TCs, the robustness of the public enquiry stage, and various other logistical requirements.
Finance minister Enoch Godongwana has said that the government is proposing to introduce a new tax on vaping products of at least R2.90 per millilitre from 1 January 2023.
Treasury proposes to introduce a specific excise tax on both the non-nicotine and nicotine solutions used in e-cigarettes and intends to use its existing policy guidelines applicable to other excisable products to do so.
It pushed out a discussion paper on the taxation of e-cigarette and vaping products in December 2021. It is proposed that a 40% incidence guideline be used which translates to a total excise duty ranging from as low as R33.30 to R346.00 with an average of R165.29.
With this approach, the excise rate may be set at an average of R2.91 per millilitre apportioned on nicotine and non-nicotine elements of the solution based on a ratio of 70:30, respectively. This will imply a rate of R2.03 per milligram of nicotine and 87 cents per millilitre for the liquid.
“The reason for the higher ratio for nicotine is to ensure that products with high nicotine concentration levy a relative higher rate compared to lower nicotine products, whilst non-nicotine products also levy an excise duty,” the paper’s authors said.
Legal firm Webber Wentzel said that National Treasury’s proposals to tax e-cigarette solutions that contain no tobacco or nicotine may, in particular, be questioned by some stakeholders, as it does not necessarily support the government’s stated policy intention of reducing the consumption of tobacco products.
“It also could stimulate the illicit trade in e-cigarettes, as has happened in the tobacco sector.”