E-Cigarettes use in South Africa

e-cigarette warning

South African cigarette smokers are less likely to quit long term if they have ever used e-cigarettes.

e-cigaretted health

The health implications of using e-cigarettes are not clear, but research suggests that various harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes are associated with eye and throat irritation, fatigue and depression.

e-cigarette statistics

Types of


Electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)

E-cigarettes heat liquids that contain nicotine which may be derived synthetically or from tobacco leaf. The resulting aerosols may contain flavorings and other ingredients (Example: Twisp)

Electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS)

ENNDS heat a non-nicotine solution or e-liquid to create a flavoured aerosol (Example: Eciggies Berry, Cinnamon concentrates)

Heated Tobacco Products (HTPs)

Also known as heat-not-burn products, HTPs heat process tobacco leaf, and unlike ENDS and ENNDS, are considered by WHO to be tobacco products

(Example: IQOS, Glo)

The rise in e-cigarette shops across South Africa may lead to more young people smoking, as a 2018 study suggests.

A national study identified 240 e-cigarette shops in 2018, 49.6% of which were within 5 km of higher education institutions (there were 178 higher education institutions identified, defined as the main or satellite, brick-and-mortar campus(es) of accredited, diploma-granting, post-secondary institutions). To explore whether proximity to e-cigarette shops was associated with e-cigarette use, the  researchers conducted a non-nationally representative survey with 18,208 adults (18 years and older) about their use of e-cigarettes in 2018. Each respondent’s geolocation was identified using their computer’s IP address, and respondents were categorised into three groups according to their proximity to the nearest e-cigarette shop (one third closest to an e-cigarette shop, one third furthest from an e-cigarette shop, and one third in-between). For young adults aged 18-29 years close geographical proximity to these shops was associated with being more likely to have ever used e-cigarettes: the one third who lived closest to an e-cigarette shop had higher odds of reporting ever using e-cigarettes than the furthest one third (adjusted odd ratio: 1.33).


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MYTH: E-cigarettes Help People Stop Smoking

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FACT: A recent South Africa study found that the likelihood of quitting smoking and remaining a non-smoker for 12 months was significantly lower among individuals who had ever used e-cigarettes relative to those that had never used e-cigarettes.

In addition, the odds of quitting and then relapsing to start smoking again was significantly higher among those who had used e-cigarettes at any time. These data suggest that using e-cigarettes reduces the probability of long-term smoking cessation.

The WHO notes that, “Significant increases in the taxes and prices of tobacco products is the most cost effective measure to reduce tobacco use… Higher prices encourage cessation and prevent initiation of tobacco use.”

In 2020, the Finance Minister in South Africa announced plans to tax novel tobacco products. The proposed plan includes an excise tax on heated tobacco products that is 75% that of the taxes on cigarettes as well as a tax on e-cigarettes that has yet to be quantified.

While the WHO advises HTPs be taxed at the same rate as other tobacco products, there is no specific guidance on taxing e-cigarettes.

For South Africa, options for revenue generation include taxing the e-liquid and/or the physical device.

A recently published study found that if e-cigarettes were taxed at 30% excise tax rate (i.e. at 75% of the rate of the regular cigarettes), expected annual revenue from e-cigarette taxes could be between R0.96 billion and R3.44 billion. For their calculations the researchers assumed:

E-cigarette devices faced a 30% excise tax rate (i.e. 75% of the Treasury targeted 40% cigarette excise in 2018).

A fixed nominal excise tax of R11.64 for e-cigarette liquid  (i.e. 75% of the nominal value of excise on a cigarette pack of R15.52 in 2018) – this assumption was made because researchers found the price of the average e-cigarette liquid used to be highly variable. 

Consumers would not adjust their spending patterns if the price of e-cigarette products increased.

Illicit trade in e-cigarettes was negligible.

Users on average purchased one device per year.

Note: This page will be updated with data from a survey on electronic cigarettes planned for June/July 2021.

Agaku, I.T., Egbe, C.O., Ayo-Yusuf, O.A. (2021). Associations between electronic cigarette use and quitting behaviours among South African adult smokers. Tobacco Control, tobaccocontrol-2020-056102. Available at: Accessed on 18 May 2021
Jiang, H., Ahmed, C., Martin, T. et al. (2021). Chemical and Toxicological Characterization of Vaping Emission Products from Commonly Used Vape Juice Diluents. Available at: Accessed 12 October 2021
WHO. (2020). Heated tobacco products: A brief. Available at: (Accessed on 6 May 2021)
Agaku, I.T., Egbe, C.O., Ayo-Yusuf, O.A. (2021). Geospatial spread of e-cigarette vape shops in South Africa and the relationship with tobacco product use among adults. Health Place, 68, epub. Available at: Accessed on 18 May 2021
WHO. (2021). Tobacco Free Initiative: Taxation. Available at: Accessed on 6 May 2021
Republic of South Africa, The National Treasury. (2019). Draft Response Document on the 2019 Draft Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill, 2019 Draft Income Tax Amendment Bill, 2019 Draft Taxation Laws Amendment Bill and 2019 Draft Tax Administration Laws Amendment Bill. Available at: Accessed on 6 May 2021
WHO. (2018). Heated tobacco products: Information sheet. Available at: Accessed on 6 May 2021
Filby S. (March 5, 2020). Taxes on e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products are not nearly high enough. Business Day. Available at: Accessed on 6 May 2021
Agaku, I. T., Egbe, C. O., & Ayo-Yusuf, O. A. (2021). Potential revenue from taxing e-cigarettes and comparison of annual costs of daily e-cigarette use versus daily cigarette smoking among South African adults. Tobacco induced diseases, 19, 07. Available at: Accessed on 18 May 2021