Countless vape advocates in New Zealand, have always been in favour of, and even urged local authorities to set in place, vape regulations. However, they believe that the Ministry of Health’s proposed fee structure and flavour restrictions in the draft bill, will be counterproductive to public health.

To this effect, the co-director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA) and Executive Coordinator for the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA), had submitted a petition signed by over 17,000 vapers and tobacco harm reduction advocates. Sadly, this was fully ignored and only presented to Parliament five days after the vaping bill disputed in the petition had already been passed.

“Over 17,000 Kiwis signed a Parliamentary petition on vaping, which was then completely ignored until five days after the vaping bill was passed. It’s so disappointing and shows what a sham the whole process has been from beginning to end,” said Loucas.

The decision should be based on science, not emotion

When local authorities reopened consultations about the draft bill, Loucas resubmitted the petition. She is now calling on new Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall and new Health Select Committee Dr Liz Craig, both public health experts, to look at the evidence and base their decision on science, not emotion.

Commenting on the petition and AVCA’s supporting supplementary submission, the Ministry of Health says it “does not support any further expansion, via regulation, of the available flavours sold by generic retailers at this point in time. Our recommendation is that the provisions should come into force as intended on 11 August 2021.”

Public health groups insist on the need of flavoured products

In response to this, Loucas pointed out that public health entities, including ASH and Hapai Te Hauora, strongly support the availability of flavours and a variety of safer alternative products in general. “We know vapers quit smoking with fruit and dessert flavours, not tobacco, menthol, or mint flavours, as they are not looking for a cigarette taste but to move away from cigarettes,” said Loucas.

In a press release the AVCA explained why the Ministry’s stance is flawed: “…the Ministry’s logic for limiting flavours is flawed, and they wrongly cite overseas statistics which do not resemble New Zealand’s reality.

For example, the Ministry points to the high use of flavoured vapes by school students in the United States. However, last year after examining the data from over 27,000 Kiwi students, University of Auckland researchers confirmed there was no youth vaping epidemic in New Zealand. They found that only 0.8% of 14 and 15 year olds were regular vapers.

She says after taking so long to regulate vaping, it’s obvious the Ministry is now keen to just push on through and not break its self-imposed timeframes.

‘Consumers are angry, and the independent industry is looking down the barrel of being run out of existence thanks to unnecessary restrictions, huge fees, and added costs.

Limiting flavours will defeat the whole purpose of regulation. It will play straight into the hands of Big Tobacco and alarming will see the growth of an underground, unregulated market offloading flavours with no quality standards,’ she says.

Ms Loucas says in its submission on her petition, the Ministry of Health acknowledges that ‘non-tobacco flavours facilitate smokers to quit smoking’. However, not actually enabling such facilitation is short-sighted and will make Smokefree New Zealand a harder goal to achieve.

‘All is not lost because submissions remain open on the Ministry of Health’s draft vaping regulations, with limiting flavours still to be confirmed ahead of the proposed August implementation,’ she says.

Concern is also increasing by smokefree advocates over the Ministry’s determination to ban sweeteners in e-liquids. They view the move as a further flavour ban by small print.

To make a submission on the draft vaping regulations, before 5.00pm on Monday, 15 March, visit  https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/smokefree-environments-and-regulated-products-act-1990-proposals-regulations

‘Our best chance is the new Associate Health Minister and the new Health Select Committee Chair. My petition signed by over 17,000 Kiwis may have been dismissed by the Ministry, but these two public health experts shouldn’t be in such a rush.

Let’s not make much safer vaping less attractive to smokers on 11 August,’ says Nancy Loucas.”

The AVCA Welcomes New Zealand’s New Associate Health Minister

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In-house journalist covering international vaping news.