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Pharmacy Council moves to ban sale of vapes in pharmacies

The SA Pharmacy Council (SAPC) has moved to ban the sale of e-cigarettes in pharmacies to the dismay of the vaping industry, which has

sought to position these products a vital aid to quitting smoking. The council released proposed amendments to the rules of good pharmacy practice for public comment in March, adding electronic nicotine delivery devices and electronic non-nicotine delivery devices to a list of products that may not be sold in pharmacies. The list already includes items such as guns, alcohol and tobacco. Interested parties had until May 28 to submit comments.

The council’s move is line with the draft Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Control Bill, which seeks to bring e-cigarettes under the same regulatory control as tobacco products and was triggered by queries from pharmacies asking if they could sell vapes and refills, said registrar Vincent Tlale. The Vaping Association of SA (VPSA) said the council’s move was regrettable and ignored scientific evidence showing that vaping was more successful at helping smokers quit than the nicotine aids currently sold in pharmacies. “While the [council] is within rights to regulate what its members can and cannot sell, their intended action… perpetuates the wrong narrative that vaping is the same as tobacco.

The industry is missing an opportunity to be part of this massive change where smokers are taking an initiative by themselves to find alternatives to meet their nicotine needs without exposing themselves to the harms of tobacco,” Vpasa CEO Asanda Gcoyi said.

Vpasa was disappointed the council had not made any attempt to talk to the vaping industry about ways to ensure its products were only sold to adults. “We are not entirely surprised, however, as this stance seems to align with the dogmatic approach of the broader public-health lobby in SA, which is entirely impervious to science that does not align with its predetermined position to malign nicotine products not manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, such as nicotine replacement therapies, despite the high failure rate of these products in firstly, appealing to smokers, and secondly, in helping those who do use them to successfully quit,” she said.

The Independent Community Pharmacy Association, which represents more than 1, 200 independently owned pharmacies, said it supported the council’s move to ban the sale of vapes in pharmacies. The ICPA was concerned the public would perceive vapes sold in pharmacies as having their stamp of approval, yet these products were not scrutinised by regulators and had not been proved to be safe, ICPA CEO Jackie Maimin said. “When products are stocked in pharmacies, it’s assumed that they’ve been vetted or recommended by pharmacists and are healthy or beneficial.

This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to tobacco and nicotine-related products,” she said. E-cigarettes contain a liquid that is heated to produce an aerosol that is inhaled by the user. These liquids contain a range of potentially harmful additives such as flavourants, fragrances, colourants and glycerol, many of which are not listed on the ingredient labels.

Pharmacies would, however, be open to selling vapes if they were approved as smoking-cessation devices by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), and sold on prescription, she said. The Tobacco Bill was submitted to parliament in 2023, but lapsed because the National Assembly did not finish work on it before parliament concluded its business ahead of the May 29 general election.

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