Africa Check has stated there is not enough evidence to back up the claim that smoking e-cigarettes is 95% safer than traditional cigarettes. The organisation found that studies backing the claim by Twisp and Vaperite did not have sufficient evidence. The claim originally stems from the conclusion of a Public Health England report published in 2015.
This report was based on research conducted in 2013, which comprised of a panel of 12 international experts using analytical methods to estimate the relative potential harm of nicotine-containing products. It was during this panel meeting that e-cigarettes were rated as only having 4% maximum relative harm, with cigarettes scoring 99.6%. However, the panel pointed out there was a lack of data regarding the health risks of e-cigarettes and that panelists weren’t selected based on formal criteria – meaning a bias possibly influenced the decision.
Both the Lancet medical journal and British Medical Journal said the research was “incredibly flimsy” and lacked sufficient data to substantiate their claims.
Africa Check concluded that claiming “vaping is 95% safer than smoking cigarettes” is unproven, due to the lack of research and data about the relatively-new product.
The #DataMustFall campaign made headlines in September, calling for lower mobile data prices from South Africa’s major networks. Tbo Touch, CEO of TouchCentral FM, gave mobile networks 30 days to make a change to their mobile data prices – and is credited with starting the campaign. After he launched the #DataMustFall campaign, thousands of South Africans joined – asking for affordable mobile data prices.
The campaign even made it to hearings into high mobile data prices at Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services. The committee’s chairman, Mmamoloko Kubayi, decided that data prices should be reduced within weeks.
Africa Check takes on #DataMustFall
The campaign was, in part, based on the claim that South Africans spend 24.7% of their income on data – which was “too high”. “Sipho Ngwenya, an information technology engineer, told ANN7 viewers that South Africans currently spend 24.7% of income on data,” said Africa Check.
Africa Check decided to fact-check this claim, and found it to be incorrect. The 24.7% figure was based on a Research ICT Africa statement, which looked at a survey conducted in 2011 and 2012 in 13 African countries. In South Africa, the survey was conducted in 1,589 households across the country.
Research ICT Africa calculated that airtime and subscriptions took up 24.7% of South Africans’ income, stated the report. The figure was for “cellphone use in total”, and its relation to data alone is therefore incorrect.
24.7% for total use is also incorrect
Africa Check stated that the 24.7% figure for total cellphone use was also at odds with existing research by Stats SA and UCT, and the view of analysts in the industry. While certain low-income individuals have been found to spend just over 20% of their income on communication services, upper income groups come nowhere near this figure.
Stats SA’s latest survey on income and expenditure – 2010/2011 – interviewed 27,665 households four times over the period of a month on their income and spending. Communication costs – including postal services, and telephone equipment and services – accounted for 2.8% of households’ expenditure, according the survey. The poorest 10% of households allocated 4% of their expenditure to communications, while the wealthiest 10% spent 2.5%, stated Africa Check.
Data from the National Income Dynamics Study supports Stats SA’s figures, and shows that in 2014/2015, the bottom 20% of income earners spent 4.8% of total household expenditure on cellphone use. The top 20% spent 2.3%.
|Income group||Average household spend per month||Average household cellphone spend per month||Cellphone spend as % of household spend|
The claim is incorrect
“People have claimed that South Africans spend close to a quarter of their income on data, based on research conducted by Research ICT Africa,” said Africa Check. “But the study took into account money spent on both data and airtime.
It is also at odds with two much larger nationally-representative studies.”
Its conclusion: the claim is incorrect.