New Zealand is quite progressive in terms of smoking reduction campaigns, with its Health Minister being renowned for putting forward a proposal to legalize e-liquid nicotine, and the government’s plan to continually increase tax on combustible tobacco, all as part of a plan to have a smoke free New Zealand by 2025.
Clive Bates, director of a consulting agency and a renowned passionate advocate of harm reduction methods, together with David Sweanor, a Canadian lawyer who has worked on tobacco control policies since the eighties, and Murray Laugesen professor at University of Canterbury and researcher of e-cigarettes, stated that the switch to vaping products “could benefit New Zealand’s half million smokers.
The following points were listed :
- Smokers who switch to e-cigarettes are likely to avoid at least 95 per cent of the major smoking-related risks for cancer, heart disease and respiratory illness, according to Public Health England. They will also experience significant short-term gains in health and, in high tobacco tax jurisdictions such as NZ, they are likely to be financially better off.
- It is unethical to deny a smoker access to products that are much safer than the dominant product on the market, cigarettes.
- The availability of e-cigarettes is not an alternative to conventional anti-smoking policy but complementary. By providing smokers with an easier way of responding to high taxes, the overall tobacco control policy will become both more responsive and more humane. This is particularly important where smoking is concentrated at high levels among Maori and Pacific Islanders.
- There is no credible evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes induce young people to smoke, or reduce the rate that adults quit smoking. The evidence shows what a neutral observer would expect: people use much safer products to reduce their health risks or to quit smoking.
- E-cigarettes pay their own way in switching from smoking. The individual bears the cost, at no cost to the public purse.
- A widespread switch to e-cigarettes would cut exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke as they pose no material risk to bystanders.
- The quality of products available from reputable manufacturers is now very high and they are on widespread sale in the Europe, North America and throughout Asia without any major problems.
- There is a growing international experience with the regulation of e-cigarettes as consumer products. By changing tack NZ can take a leadership role in this.
The experts continued by debating the kind of outlets that should be licensed to sell these products, and while other researchers have suggested vape shops and pharmacies, the former are of the opinion that the preferred e-cigarette in NZ will eventually be sold in supermarkets, and that any other additional related products such as batteries, would be obtained from vape shops. They feel that pharmacies would not be ideal as they do not possess the expertise nor space needed to sell “the expensive range of hardware involved in servicing this new industry”, and that the Ministry of Health should invest in training staff at vaping shops.
The experts agree on implementing different regulations for smokers and vapers
The next point they touched on was that of advertising, pointing out that whilst most e-cigarette retailers are anti-smoking and selling products that can prevent fatal disease, they are not allowed to advertise them. The authors pointed out that advertising regulations should be different for retailers selling vaping products than for those selling combustible tobacco.
Bates, Sweanor and Laugesen concluded their article by touching on the debate of vaping in public spaces. They echoed the report issued by Public Health England that highlights the importance of not confining vapers to use the same smoking areas designated for tobacco smokers, and concluded by stating that “Denying e-cigarette users the ability to vape would be wrong.”