Public health advocates in New Zealand want to promote Very Low Nicotine cigarettes (Image: A. Efimov)

Tobacco use remains the single biggest cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in New Zealand. Along with many other organisations, New Zealand Health Promotion Agency’s work is focused on helping achieve the Government’s goal that New Zealand be smokefree by 2025 (with smoking prevalence less than 5%) and to meet the national health target of “better help for smokers to quit.” By 2018 the agency aims at bringing prevalence down to around 10% of the national population and to at least halve the 2011 Māori and Pacific smoking rates.

In the country, smoking is prohibited in a range of places including indoor areas of work and licensed premises, as well as in the grounds and buildings of schools and early childhood centres (The Smoke-free Environments Amendment Act, 2003) in order to de-normalise smoking behaviour and prevent second-hand exposure. In parallel, a strong regulation is applied to vaping products.

“We believe that 22nd Century’s proprietary Very Low Nicotine cigarettes will be an invaluable public health tool; we stand ready to assist New Zealand in its progressive and pragmatic approach to a national nicotine reduction policy.” -H. Sicignano.
A press release on 22nd Century‘s web site, a plant biotechnology company that is a leader in tobacco harm reduction reveals that Public health advocates in New Zealand have contacted the company to advance their plans to market 22nd Century’s Very Low Nicotine cigarettes (VLNCs) in New Zealand.


A tax rate substantially lower than that of conventional cigarettes associated to the product may significantly contribute to the public health initiative that aims to achieve the smoke-free country goal.

Henry Sicignano, III, President and Chief Executive Officer at 22nd Century Group believes that reducing the nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels is a promising regulatory strategy to drastically reduce the harm caused by smoking.

A recent letter in the NZ Med J by Judy Li and co-authors [1] from the New Zealand Health Promotion Agency showed that approximately 2,600 adults would support (81% of those surveyed, 63% of smokers) the concept that “nicotine content of cigarettes should be reduced to very low levels so that they are less addictive“.

Reducing the nicotine content to make cigarettes less addictive

The idea of a nicotine reduction strategy has been proposed by Benowitz and Henningfield in 1994 and evolved until their endgame proposal article in 2013.

Dr Murray Laugesen, PHA's 2014 Public Health Champion, (Image
Dr Murray Laugesen, Health New Zealand Ltd., Public Health Champion 2014 (Image

Dr. Murray Laugesen, researcher on smoking policy and cigarettes has been advocating for a national nicotine policy for several years. His valuable actions on the battlefield of both the e-cigarette and the VLNCs may appear controversial. The active adjunct Professor is however open minded and considers the case of minorities very seriously. Let’s recall that major concerns arose with the extremely high smoking prevalence among the Māori ethny, probably one of the highest in the world. Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of preventable death for Māori in New Zealand. Every year, approximately three times as many Māori die from lung cancer and other smoking related diseases as non-Māori.

More is expected on February 10 from Parliament when M. Laugesen defends this proposal and in February 19’s NZ Med J issue.

[1] Li J., Newcombe R., Walton D., 2016. Responses towards additional tobacco control measures: data from a population-based survey of New Zealand adults. New Zealand Medical Journal, Volume 129 Number 1428.



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PhD in science and journalist for the Vaping Post. Specialised in scientific topics.
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5 years ago

People will just smoke more to compensate. It’s not the nicotine that does the harm. It’s the combustion. So, from what I’m reading here, it could do more harm. Vaping IMO is far far far safer.

5 years ago

Nicotine, outside of machine made cigarettes, is considered by experts who work with it to be non addictive. Vapers find that they lose their tolerance for it and routinely reduce their levels. Clinical trials run by Dr. Paul Newhouse of the Vanderbilt Centre, with never smokers, using high strength nicotine patches for a period of six months at a time, in order to treat depression, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Ulcerative Colitis, found that not one person became addicted or started smoking. These trials were cited by pharmaceutical companies in order to win approval for long term and concomitant use with other nicotine products, including cigarettes, of their Nicotine Replacement Therapy, with no concerns for safety or abuse …. because nicotine alone isn’t addictive. MAOI’s are added to cigarettes which act with the nicotine to create addiction. Therefore, I very much doubt these new cigarettes, if they contain MAOI’s, will be less addictive and I agree with Rojeans that people will just smoke more to compensate. It’s a ridiculous idea – the dangers are in the smoke from burning tobacco, not in the nicotine.

I cannot believe that opponents of vaping, which is proven to be at worst 95% safer than smoking cigarettes and very likely 99% safer, will be brazen enough to support these new cigarettes. No, actually I can believe it because, hey, the governments will still be in control of them and able to take their usual huge cut, plenty of which goes to benefit the people in tobacco control, universities, researchers and health charities. It’s not about health, it’s about following the money, as usual.

Norbert Zillatron
Norbert Zillatron
Reply to  Lollylulubes
5 years ago

Oh, and don’t forget: This “low nic” crap will work just like NRTs. Unsatisfying junk. “Relapse” to the “real stuff” is already programmed in. It’s just a scam to make yet more money from smokers. Of course they’ll find some “arguments”, why this junk has to be even more expensive than normal cigarettes.

Maybe they’ll even suggest to you use them in combination with patches and gums from the Pharmafia to supplement what’s missing. This way you can be fleeced even more …

5 years ago

This is sheer idiocy. We’ve already learned that people who switched to low nicotine cigarettes just smoked more and therefore inhaled more harmful substances than ever. If nicotine (by itself) is so addictive, then why aren’t more people addicted to the gum and patches? When the FDA approved over-the-counter sales of these products they said they’d learned that nicotine is not particularly good at causing “dependency.”