Even though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continuously denounces vaping and e-cigs as unhealthy alternatives to smoking, one world-class physician is speaking out against these controversial claims. Dr. Kgosi Letlape is the President of the Health Professions Council in South Africa, and he is going on record by stating that the FDA is just plain wrong.
“It shouldn’t even be a contest. To me, it’s about alternatives to combustible cigarettes which have the highest degree of harm. It is about harm reduction, in general, and we need to get to a space where people have a choice.”
Letlape also goes on to clarify that people who do not already smoke should still avoid engaging in e-cig use. When the FDA and other public health organizations across the globe publish anti-vaping propaganda, these agencies often fail to make this very important distinction. According to Letlape, vaping has its place. It is an extremely effective method of helping people to stop smoking that also substantially lowers the immediate health risks associated with conventional cigarettes.
“We’re not advocating people start smoking. It’s not about saying start vaping (to non-smokers), it’s about those who do. It’s about [the] reduction of harm and not the extermination of harm.”
But Letlape is not without his detractors, most notably his country’s own Health Minister who takes the exact opposite view. Aaron Mtosoaledi has repeatedly claimed that vaping is just as deadly as conventional smoking, and he has even called for an immediate vaping ban across the entire nation.
Vaping is not a “magic bullet, but it’s part of safer ways of delivering nicotine.”
In an interview with AllAfrica Dr. Kgosi Letlape speaks of his strong commitment to helping people live better and healthier lives. He seems to fully understand how difficult it can be for people to quit smoking, but he also feels strongly that the medical community has a moral obligation to endorse healthier alternatives that may still pose limited health risks,
“I was raised in a culture of being useful to others and making people lives better. And being qualified as a doctor, my oath means helping patients and improving the quality of their lives and doing no harm to them. So even when they harm themselves, if there is an opportunity to help them reduce harm to themselves, because sometimes you can’t make people stop harming themselves.”
This is where many in the vaping community believe that the FDA’s negative stance towards vaping and e-cigs misses the mark. No vaping enthusiast would ever recommend to their non-smoking friends or family members to take up the habit of vaping. We know very well how difficult it can be to quit smoking. In fact, most would agree that even switching to vaping was not without its fair share of challenges.
So, when the FDA issues a constant stream of intentionally misleading statements claiming that vaping is dangerous, that the vapor from e-cigs is filled with toxic substances, or that vaping is a gateway to smoking, the vaping community gets riled up. And according to Dr. Kgosi Letlape, they have every right to be. While these types of statements might be partially true, agencies like the FDA fail to provide the comparable statistics of conventional cigarettes, which misleads the general public.
“It’s not a magic bullet (vaping). But it’s part of safer ways of delivering nicotine. And it’s not the only product. For me, what brings me here at the Global Nicotine Forum that parent products that needs to be discussed is tobacco itself.”
Broken English aside, what Letlape is essentially saying is that nicotine addiction is not necessarily harmful. Nicotine is not tobacco. It’s the tar and toxins found in combustible tobacco cigarettes that are the real killers. And electronic cigarettes are 100 percent tar-free while only containing a fraction of the toxicity.
“Quitting tobacco smoking entirely provides a 100 percent safe solution, but cold-quitting is not possible for most tobacco addicts,” Letlape argues. “South African legislators should not deny the country’s smokers an alternative that is more effective than existing nicotine replacement therapies.”
Dr. Kgosi Letlape is the current President of the Health Professions Council in South Africa (HPSCA) and the founder of the African Medical Association. He is also a former president of the World Medical Association and a former chairman of the South African Medical Association.
Article Credit: Matt Rowland