Connect with us

Focus

Is Vaping Really Helping You Quit Traditional Tobacco Cigarettes?

Published

on

Prev1 of 2
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Vaping, which is gaining popularity as a lifestyle trend and is an alternative to conventional smoking in what is an $80 million industry in South Africa, is not without its risks.


It has gathered steam over the last decade to become one of the most recognizable social gadgets. The mass appeal transcends age, culture and gender. From advances around Artificial Intelligence (AI) to medical explorations, handheld vaping devices have become one of the quintessential symbols of the digital era.

Vape stores have become a standard feature of every shopping precinct, whether large or small, in the upmarket areas of South Africa. The stores are as recognizable as retailers that have been around for decades and have etched themselves in the minds of consumers.

During its relatively short period in the space of consumer consumption, it has amassed polarizing views – primarily related to cost, exposure and health. Here are some of them:

Vaping to quit smoking

Various strategies have been used to market e-cigarettes, but none is more prevalent than the idea that they assist smokers to kick the habit.

Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) CEO Zodwa Velleman says electronic vaping has provided users an alternative that has been beneficial for their health as a result of quitting traditional cigarettes.

However, head of the Lung Clinical Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, Associate Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, says the appeal of electronic vaping products (EVPs) is in the skewed manner in which it is marketed.

He says it appeals to the senses of those who weren’t smokers to begin with.

READ MORE | Beyond the plumes of smoke the weed economy on a high

“The attraction should be for those who are smoking and can’t give up the habit, to switch to something that is potentially safer. However, what has occurred is that the marketing comes across as trendy and as something you should be doing. So, non-smokers, those who wouldn’t have started smoking, are getting involved with vaping and are seeing it as a safe activity.”

“The appeal should be from a tobacco perspective. [It should] not be appealing to the non-vaper [and] non-smoker,” Van Zyl-Smit says.

Velleman says she cannot dismiss the claim that there would be interest from individuals who were not previous smokers but this would be a small percentage compared to former smokers who have completely switched from traditional cigarettes to vaping.

She says a study conducted by global management consulting firm Canback Consulting found that, “the people who try e-cigarettes are less than 0.1% and that is not the bulk of the users. The bulk of the users are your historic traditional smokers. So, you can say that 99% [of EVP users] are people that were smokers”.

Executive Manager at Vape King in South Africa, Sharri Van Zyl, observes that those who initially take up vaping use it as a means, “to get off cigarettes and then adopt it as a lifestyle later on”.

Founded in 2012, Vape King is one of the few recognizable e-cigarette retailers in an industry that is currently worth R1.1 billion ($80.4 million) in South Africa. A majority of the vaping stores operating in South Africa are “moms and pops corner shops”, according to Velleman.

These are small shops that are owned and run by families who are not commercially recognizable brands, she says. 

Van Zyl-Smit says the assertion that vaping leads to the quitting of traditional cigarettes, which contain carcinogens that cause cancer, is tenuous. He says he would not encourage smokers to take up vaping to quit cigarettes.

“When one looks at vaping as an option to quit smoking, the data is unfortunately very poor. It has helped some people. And certainly, if you look on the internet…there will be some people who tell you, ‘I smoked for 20 years and I quit. It’s the best thing ever’. 

“One person, unfortunately, from a scientific point of view, does not make a study.

“It’s not to say they [e-cigarettes] won’t help an individual. But if we, as a community of people, who are looking after smokers, are saying, ‘what are the best options?’. Vaping is way down the list of best options to help you quit.”

While 32-year-old Kim Salinger (not her real name), who has been vaping for two years, says it helped her quit smoking, she says her initial plan was to “not smoke anything but I’m still vaping”.


Associate Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit, says the appeal of electronic vaping products (EVPs) is in the skewed manner in which it is marketed. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

“It makes me feel like it’s not such a bad habit. Also, now, is a habit that’s with me wherever I go.”

She says she eventually intends to quit.

This may prove to be challenging because of the physical and psychological effects EVPs have on the body, Van Zyl-Smit says. 

“There’s no question that vaping is addictive. Both tobacco cigarettes and vape liquids contain nicotine. There are a few nicotine-free vape liquids, but a majority of them contain nicotine.

“Nicotine is the substance that causes the physical chemical addiction.

 “There is also the behavioral element, that when you’re feeling anxious or angry, you grab a cigarette. And similarly, because vaping has that same mechanism whereby, ‘I respond to my environment… by grabbing a vaping device’, bringing it to your mouth, inhaling and getting a positive feedback.

“So, it becomes both a chemical addiction and a habit. Both of them link together. Even if you take, nicotine-free vape, you will still become addicted because of the habit element, and to necessarily the chemical addiction. Which, is more important when trying to give up [a habit],” Van Zyl-Smit says.

Despite the varying insights, all parties seemingly spoke with the same breath – but for different reasons, saying that vaping was still in its infancy and more research was being conducted.

Health risks versus health benefits

The consensus on the hazardous effects of traditional cigarettes is unanimous across all spectrums. Not so much with e-cigarettes, although there have been reports that claim their flavorants have adverse effects on the respiratory system. The most prominent being bronchiolitis obliterans, commonly referred to as ‘popcorn lung’.

“It is a condition that damages your lungs’ smallest airways and makes you cough and feel short of breath. It’s sometimes caused by breathing in a chemical used to flavor microwave popcorn. But other chemicals or lung illnesses can also cause popcorn lung,” webMD writes.

The chemical called diacetyl in the popcorn flavorant that causes this illness has previously been used in some vapor liquids.

Salinger, who emphasizes that she does not enjoy the sweeter vape flavors and has “defaulted to the mint”, says she has read a fair amount about popcorn lung and is personally concerned about it but also commends the improvements to her health since she started vaping.

“I’ve seen improvements in my health, my breathing, my skin since I stopped smoking cigarettes. But there are still other problems which are attributed to vaping,” Salinger says.

Van Zyl-Smit says the question of the adverse health effects of vaping needs be viewed from two perspectives – the smoker and the non-smoker’s perspective. 

From a non-smoking point of view, research has been conducted, “showing that if you expose people and animal cells to vaping liquid, you can induce a whole lot of changes that look similar to what would happen if you exposed them to cigarettes”.

“And so there is data to show that if you are vaping, you may have increased risks for viral infections, for pneumonia… it may increase your risk for TB [tuberculosis].”

“There are a whole lot of small experiments showing that if you vape, there are definitely biological factors that may cause problems.”

From a smoking point of view, Van Zyl-Smit says: “If you are smoking and you switch to vaping, your risk for infections and cancer seems to be reduced. But to what extent, we haven’t seen dramatically at this particular point.”

Velleman contends that there are other alternative views from the medical fraternity. She says Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, who has “done the most amount of research on vaping and its impact on health”, has a different assessment.

She says Farsalinos, who is a doctor at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre in Greece, spoke at a conference hosted by VPASA.

“He says one of the challenges that we face is the product that had been used by the [popcorn] manufacturer was used by some of the people who manufacture the [vaping] liquids that are used in e-cigarettes,” Velleman says.

“If you look at the products that go into the making of the liquid – that product is longer there. It’s actually been banned and is not allowed to be used.”

Velleman says these incidents occurred during the earlier phase of the establishment of the industry, “because it has always been an industry in evolution”.

The health challenges presented by popcorn lung in the vaping industry were “identified and dealt with”, she says.

Another concern about flavors is that spices used in vaping liquid contains food flavorants. “The same types of flavors that are being heated to several hundred degrees and are being inhaled. We just don’t have enough data to suggest what happens to the so-called safe flavorants when they are heated and inhaled,” Van Zyl-Smit says.

As EVP products find their way into social dialogues, the discussions span beyond recreational use, or as a tool to quit smoking. There are theories that, with enough exploration, the devices might be used to dispense medication.

The idea is that oral medications and hypodermic needles would be replaced by EVPs, which, in theory, would absorb the medication directly into the bloodstream. The health benefit being that the elimination of needles could prevent mishaps such as overdoses, as well as, HIV and hepatitis.

As it stands, it has been widely reported that medical marijuana is being used via EVPs by patients, as part of pain management therapy for illnesses such as cancer.

Prev1 of 2
Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

Focus

How LinkedIn Is Looking To Help Close The Ever-Growing Skills Gap

mm

Published

on

By

As the job market has evolved, so too have the skills required of seekers. But when 75% of human resources professionals say a skills shortage has made recruiting particularly challenging in recent months, it would appear as though the workforce hasn’t quite kept pace. Now LinkedIn is stepping in to help close the gap.

On Tuesday, the professional social network announced the launch of a “Skills Assessments” tool, through which users can put their knowledge to the test. Those who pass are given the opportunity to display a badge that reads “passed” next to the skill on their profile pages, a validation of sorts that LinkedIn hopes will encourage skills development among its users and help better match potential employees with the right employers.  

READ MORE | Not Just Equality, But Recognition Of Excellence

“We see an evolving labor market and much more sophistication in how recruiters and hiring managers look for skills. … We also see a changing learning market,” says Hari Srinivasan, senior director of product management at LinkedIn Learning. “The combination of those two made us excited about changing our opportunity marketplace to make the hiring side and the learning side work better together.”

So how exactly does it work? Let’s say a user wants to showcase her proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Rather than simply listing “Excel” in the skills section of her profile, she can take a multiple-choice test to demonstrate the extent to which she is an expert.

If she aces the test, not only will a badge verifying her aptitude will appear on her profile, but she will be more likely to surface in searches by recruiters, who can search for candidates by skill in the same way they might do so by college or employer. If she fails, she can take the test again, but she’ll have to wait a few months—plenty of time to develop her skillset.   

The tool has been in beta mode since March, and while just 2 million people have used it—a mere fraction of LinkedIn’s 630 million members—early results seem promising. According to LinkedIn, members who’ve completed skills assessments have been nearly 30% more likely to land jobs than their counterparts who did not take the tests.

READ MORE | Challenging The Gender Divide

“This has been a really good way for members to represent what they know, what they are good at,” says Emrecan Dogan, LinkedIn group product manager.

While new to LinkedIn, the practice of assessing candidates’ skills has been a standard among hiring managers for decades. But when research commissioned by LinkedIn revealed that 69% of employees feel that skills have become more important to recruiters than education, LinkedIn felt as though this was the time to give job seekers the opportunity to prove themselves from the get-go.

As important as the hard skills that members can put to the test through LinkedIn’s new tool may be, Dawn Fay, senior district president at recruiting firm Robert Half, encourages those on both side of the job search not to forget the importance of soft skills. “You wouldn’t want to rule somebody in or out just based on how they did on one particular skill assessment,” she says.

“Have another data point that you can use, question people about how they did on something and see if it’s something that can feed into the puzzle to find out if somebody is going to be a good fit.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

Continue Reading

Economy

Why The High Number Of Employees Quitting Reveals A Strong Job Market

mm

Published

on

By

While recession fears may be looming in the minds of some, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy and job market may actually be strengthening.

The quits rate—or the percentage of all employees who quit during a given month—rose to 2.4% in July, according to the BLS’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover report, released Tuesday. That translates to 3.6 million people who voluntarily left their jobs in July.

This is the highest the quits rate has been since April 2001, just five months after the Labor Department began tracking it. According to Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, the quits rate tends to be a reflection of the state of the economy.

READ MORE | 5 Things You Should Do The Night Before A Job Interview

“The level of the quits rate really is a sign of how strong the labor market is,” he says. “If you look at the quits rate over time, it really drops quite a bit when the labor market gets weak. During the recession it was quite low, and now it’s picked up.”

The monthly jobs report, released last week, revealed that the economy gained 130,000 jobs in August, which is 20,000 less than expected, and just a few weeks earlier, the BLS issued a correction stating that it had overestimated by 501,000 how many jobs had been added to the market in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. Yet despite all that, employees still seem to have confidence in the job market.Today In: Leadership

The quits level, according to the BLS, increased in the private sector by 127,000 for July but was little changed in government. Healthcare and social assistance saw an uptick in departures to the tune of 54,000 workers, while the federal government saw a rise of 3,000.

READ MORE | 5 Questions You Should Never Ask During A Job Interview

The July quits rate in construction was 2.4%, while the number in trade, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality were 2.6%, 3.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Bunker of Indeed says that the industries that tend to see the highest rate of departuresare those where pay is relatively low, such as leisure and hospitality. An unknown is whether employees are quitting these jobs to go to a new industry or whether they’re leaving for another job in the same industry. Either could be the case, says Bunker.

In a recently published article on the industries seeing the most worker departures, Bunker attributes the uptick to two factors—the strong labor market and faster wage growth in the industries concerned: “A stronger labor market means employers must fill more openings from the ranks of the already employed, who have to quit their jobs, instead of hiring jobless workers. Similarly, faster wage growth in an industry signals workers that opportunities abound and they might get higher pay by taking a new job.”

Even so, recession fears still dominate headlines. According to Bunker, the data shows that when a recession hits, employers pull back on hiring and workers don’t have the opportunity to find new jobs. Thus, workers feel less confident and are less likely to quit.

READ MORE | South Africa’s Informal Sector: Why People Get Stuck In Precarious Jobs

“As the labor market gets stronger, there’s more opportunities for workers who already have jobs. So they quit to go to new jobs or they quit in the hopes of getting new jobs again,” Bunker says. He also notes that recession fears may have little to do with the job market, instead stemming from what is happening in the financial markets, international relations or Washington, D.C.

So what does the BLS report say about the job market? “Taking this report as a whole, it’s indicating that the labor market is still quite strong, but then we lost momentum,” Bunker says. While workers are quitting their jobs, he says that employers are pulling back on the pace at which they’re adding jobs. “While things are quite good right now and workers are taking advantage of that,” he notes, “those opportunities moving forward might be fewer and fewer if the trend keeps up.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

Continue Reading

Focus

No Seat At The Global Table For Indigenous African Cuisine

Published

on

Gastronomic tourism based on African food could easily increase and create new value chains that unlock billions in untapped wealth for the continent, but what is stopping us?


Food and tourism are an integral part of most economies, globally. Food is undeniably a core part of all cultures and an increasingly important attraction for tourists. To satisfy their wanderlust, contemporary tourists require an array of experiences that include elements of education, entertainment, picturesque scenery and culinary wonders.  The link between food and tourism allows destinations to develop local economies; and food experiences help to brand and market them, as well as supporting the local culture and knowledge systems.

 This is particularly important for rural communities, where 61% of sub-Saharan Africans live, according to the World Bank last year. These communities have often felt the brunt of urbanization, which has resulted in a shift away from rural economies. If implemented effectively, Africa could get a piece of the gastronomic tourism pie, which was worth $8.8 trillion last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

World-renowned chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu and author of her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef. Picture: Motlaban Monnakgotla

However, there is currently very little public information to pique the interest of tourists about African food. World-renowned South African chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu sought to remedy this with her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef.

“I think where it was very clear to me that I needed to do something was when I went to cooking school. I trained at Christina Martin School of Food and Wine. I thought I was actually going to get training on South African food and, somehow, I assumed we were talking indigenous food.

 “I was shocked that we went through the whole year’s curriculum and we didn’t cover anything that I ate at home; we didn’t cover anything that my first cousins, who are Sotho, ate in Nelspruit (in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province); we didn’t cover anything that would come from eSwatini, which is where my mother is from,” Mqwebu says.

By self-publishing, she has ultimately contributed to a value chain that has linked local food producers and suppliers, which includes agriculture, food production, country branding and cultural and creative industries.

“I am a member of Proudly South African, not only my business, but the book as well. Part of the reason is that the cookbook was 100% published in South Africa. So, everybody who worked on the cookbook, and printing, was all in South Africa, which is something quite rare these days because authors have their books published abroad.”

The Proudly South African campaign is a South African ‘buy local’ initiative that sells her cookbook on their online platform as its production adheres to the initiative’s campaign standards. Self-publishing has allowed Mqwebu to promote her book for two years and to directly communicate with her audience in a way she thought was best, while exposing her to a vast community of local networks. She recalls her first step towards creating her own body of work.

Amadumbe gnocchi. Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

“I was in culinary school when I wrote the recipe for amadumbe (potato of the tropics) gnocchi. We were making gnocchi and I thought, ‘so why aren’t we using amadumbe because it’s a starch?’ and when I tasted it, I thought, ‘this could definitely work’. I started doing my recipes then.

 “And there was talk about, ‘we don’t have desserts as Africans’. I did some research and found we ate berries, we were never big on sugar to begin with. That’s why I took the same isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin that my grandmother used to make and that became my dessert. “I also found that when I went to libraries looking for indigenous recipes, I couldn’t really find something that spoke to me as a chef. I found content that looked like history books. It was not appealing. It was not something, as a chef, I could proudly present to another chef from a different part of the world, so I knew I had to write my book,” Mqwebu says about the award-winning recipe book that chronicles African cuisine.

Isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin. Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

Financial and health benefits

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2018, the tourism sector “contributed 319 million jobs, representing one in 10 of all jobs globally and is responsible for one in five of all new jobs created in the world over the last five years. It has increased its share of leisure spending to 78.5%, meaning 21.5% of spending was on business.”

To narrow in on how lucrative food can be, the World Food Travel Association estimates that visitors spend approximately 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. The figure can get as high as 35% in expensive destinations, and as low as 15% in more affordable destinations. “Confirmed food lovers also spend a bit more than the average of 25% spent by travelers in general.”

However, there is a widely-held view that the African continent is not doing enough to maximize its potential to also position itself as a gastronomic tourism destination, using its unique edge of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).

“We are not a culinary destination and we will never be while we are still offering pasta as the attraction for our tourists,” Mqwebu says.

Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems program in South Africa’s North-West University, echoes Mqwebu’s sentiments.

“I often cringe when I go to conferences and there are guests from all over the world and we serve them pasta. Why would they come from Brazil to eat pasta here? They can have pasta in Italy. Why don’t we serve them umngqusho (samp and beans)?

Umngqusho (samp and beans). Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

“We need to be creating those experiences around our culture. We are failing to capitalize on our strengths. There is a lack of drive to celebrate what we have,” says Sedupane, who also teaches modules and supervises research in indigenous health and nutrition.

Writer and historian Sibusiso Mnyanda says current innovations in African food technology are born out of necessity, rather tourism and cultural ambitions.

“Food security is becoming an issue that is leading to IKS around farming being prioritized. In Nigeria, they are innovating dry season farming, because of deforestation and soil being de-cultivated. 

“So those indigenous knowledge strategies are being used in countries where it is a necessity and where there are enough advances related to the fourth industrial revolution. The traditional ways of producing food are not only much more organic, they are also crop-efficient,” Mnyanda says.

Nigeria may have inadvertently innovated a health solution related to colon cancer through its diet. Sedupane tells FORBES AFRICA an anecdote.

“There was a study where the colons of an African country that did not consume a lot of meat was compared to Europeans. The Africans had a much better profile as a result and there are people who want to buy African stool to get that kind of rich bacteria, that you get on an African plant-based diet.”

Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Picture: Supplied

The study Sedupane is referring to was conducted in Nigeria and it states that: “Nigeria showed the average annual incidence of colorectal cancer was 27 patients per year. This shows that even if it seems that incidence rates are increasing in Nigeria, such rates are still about one-tenth of what is seen in the truly developed countries.”

In a bid to find reasons for this rarity of colon and rectal cancer, the study concluded that, among other reasons, the protective effects of Nigeria’s starch-based, vegetable-based, fruit-based, and spicy, peppery diet, and geographical location which ensures sunshine all year round, played a role in the country’s colon health.

Interestingly, it seems the potential value of African food could not only be based on what goes in but what also comes out as healthy faecal matter is big business globally. In 2015, The Washington Post published that one could potentially earn $13,000 a year selling their poop. 

The American-based company OpenBiome has been processing and shipping frozen stool to patients who are very sick with infections of a bacteria called C.difficile. It causes diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, leaving some sufferers house-bound. “Antibiotics often help, but sometimes, the bacteria rears back as soon as treatment stops. By introducing healthy faecal matter into the gut of a patient (by way of endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules), doctors can abolish C. difficile for good… And yes, they pay for healthy poop: $40 a sample, with a $50 bonus if you come in five days a week. That’s $250 for a week of donations, or $13,000 a year,” the publication stated.

Sedupane is of the view that a diet which includes indigenous foods could vastly improve one’s quality of life.

He says small changes could be made, such as including more of indigenous greens, namely sorghum and millet, to breakfast. The grains are gluten-free and produce alkaline which boosts the pH level of fluids in the body and reduces acidity.

Moringa fruit which is an African superfood. Picture: Getty Images

“Moving to our legumes, we have indlubu (Bambara groundnut) which is very rich and helps in the secretion of serotonin in the brain. This so important nowadays with the increase of depression. It’s easy to digest, and is great for cholesterol and moderating blood sugar,” Sedupane says.

 Mnyanda is also of the view that food is imperative to health and medicinal properties. He says traditional healers primarily use natural herbs in their practice. “These are used in pain relief and healing. Things like cannabis, camphor, African potatao and red carrots. So, food is not just used for nutritional purposes.”

Other African superfoods include, Baobab fruit, Hibiscus, Tamarind, Kenkiliba, Amaranth, Moringa and pumpkin leaves. 

Cultural and historical benefits

Gastronomic tourism also includes the promotion of heritage sites that are known to revolve around dishes that are of historic importance. They enhance the travel experience, they encourage the acquisition of knowledge and a cultural exchange.

There is a unanimous view that vast amounts of knowledge have been lost to history and there is a huge knowledge gap in African societies as a result of colonization and urbanization.

“Part of the colonial agenda was to make sure food security did not belong to indigenous groups. Therefore, archiving of these knowledge systems was not a priority. Especially during industrialization, where people moved from their villages to the city you found that the knowledge got left behind,” Mnyanda says.

Abathwa (the San people) hunting. Picture: Getty Images

He offers a contemporary example of how modernization continues to push African practices to the fringes: “To this day, abathwa (the San people) hunt their meat, but you find that because of changing agricultural practices and land reform on the Kruger National Park, they are being forced to move into the cities and industrial areas, therefore they are no longer able to practice their culture of hunting. As a result, their diet is changing.” Sedupane shares the view that the fundamentals of farming and astrology have also been exiled from public knowledge.

“The fundamentals of IKS were based on the understanding of the laws of nature – how and when things were done. Harvest cycles were linked with understanding astrology. They would not harvest until certain stars were visible in the sky. There was a dependence on nature.

“With industrialization, rather than working with nature, humans are seen as being above, as controlling, as directing it. The natural cycle is often tempered with rather than trying to work with it.”

Not all is lost however. There are historical practices that have stood the test of time and continue to be a part the few foods that are internationally associated with South Africa. Mqwebu says that, “historically, we ate more plants than meat because our ancestors had to hunt and the game back then was not tame. So, there were no guarantees that you would return with meat. And that’s where things like umqwayiba (biltong) come from. They had to preserve the meat, because wasting was not part of the culture”.

Umqwayiba (biltong). Picture: Getty Images

According to a 2015 exploratory research project conducted under the guidance of research institute Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society director Professor Melville Saayman, biltong contributes more than R2.5 billion ($163 million) to the South African economy.

Perhaps, like the faecal transporting company, Africa will soon realize the ‘wasted’ opportunity and that there is loads of money to be made in gastronomic tourism for all its inhabitants, whether they are rural or urban, technological or indigenous.

Continue Reading

Trending