“All of us Kiwis involved in the industry are enormously proud of the work we have done to help tens of thousands of other Kiwis to quit smoking. However, given all the negative media coverage recently out of the US on unrelated issues, our trusted products and professional businesses in New Zealand are now facing decimation by statute,” said Ben Pryor, spokesperson for VTANZ, and director of Alt New Zealand.

“In recent years the local industry has done well to implement its own voluntary code around standards, but to have it all officially and explicitly sanctioned can’t come soon enough.”

The launch of VTANZ comes in response to the introduction of the Smoke-free Environments (Vaping) Amendment Bill, which is set to be introduced in Parliament in the coming weeks.

Pryor emphasized that the association is completely in favour of the implementation of regulations and standards that would ensure the safety of vapers, and that the industry has in fact been advocating for such measures for a number of years.

“The Ministry of Health has indicated the proposed regulations will prohibit harmful ingredients, set quality standards for ingredients, as well as set standards for refill containers and devices. This is long overdue. In recent years the local industry has done well to implement its own voluntary code around standards, but to have it all officially and explicitly sanctioned can’t come soon enough,” says Mr Pryor.

However added Pryor, the local vaping industry is concerned that given the recent events taking place in the US, ministers might go further, ignore scientific evidence and consider unnecessary and detrimental restrictions. “However, New Zealand’s independent vaping brands and many retailers are increasingly concerned that MPs will now go much much further. We’re really fearful that they’re about to side with the media’s newfound emotion, not the established scientific evidence.”

“We’re no longer going to take this lying down. As a positive industry, we’re now drawing a line under what is a big beat up. We’re coming together to fight any regulation that will boost Big Tobacco’s presence and see more Kiwis continue to smoke,” said Pryor.

Alarming media headlines

“Suddenly it’s all about prohibiting all marketing, banning the most successful flavours for adults, and dramatically capping nicotine levels. If the Government reacts to these ‘click-bait’ stories by making vaping less appealing to adult smokers, fewer will simply give up tobacco and the country will never achieve its smoke-free ambition.”

Pryor’s business partner and fellow VTANZ spokesperson, Jonathan Devery, said that in fact, as a result of the current media panic, the Health Promotion Agency has now suspended its “vape to quit smoking” public information campaign, including cancelling television commercials. “What’s more, the noises now coming out of the Beehive are increasingly alarming. Suddenly it’s all about prohibiting all marketing, banning the most successful flavours for adults, and dramatically capping nicotine levels. If the Government reacts to these ‘click-bait’ stories by making vaping less appealing to adult smokers, fewer will simply give up tobacco and the country will never achieve its smoke-free ambition,” said Devery.

The VTANZ was initially formed in 2016 with the aim of establishing standards within the local industry, but it had struggled to gain momentum. “In the absence of regulation, the original VTANZ established a code of conduct which saw local vape manufacturers and retailers adhere to the highest standards of product quality as well as drive the importance of R18 policies and checks. Now the industry desperately needs to step up again if we’re to survive what is suddenly a highly vexed environment, solely due to unrelated incidents reported overseas,” added Devery.

Vaping is not harmless, but less harmful than smoking

“Vapers who are concerned about the safety of vaping should not return to smoking which is far more harmful.”

Meanwhile, with regards to the cases of lung disease in the US, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has confirmed that “to-date there are no signs of similar concerns in New Zealand”. “Vaping is not harmless, but it is much less harmful than smoking. Vapers who are concerned about the safety of vaping should not return to smoking which is far more harmful,” added the Ministry.

Devery said that VTANZ is pleased with the Ministry’s reconfirmed position and in full agreement with its advice that “vaping products should only be used by smokers wanting to switch to less harmful products”. He added that VTANZ also emphasizes the importance of only purchasing “vaping products from a reputable retailer and do not risk vaping home-made or illicit products”.

Public Health England Concurs

Public Health England (PHE) is similarly reassuring e-cig users in the UK that their stance on vaping remains unchanged. “Our advice on e-cigarettes remains unchanged – vaping isn’t completely risk free but is far less harmful than smoking tobacco. There is no situation where it would be better for your health to continue smoking rather than switching completely to vaping,” said the PHE on Twitter.

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