Loucas believes that Associate Health Minster Dr Ayesha Verrall understands public health and tobacco harm reduction. Infact, she said, her recently released action plan discussion document details the bold measures that need to be taken if the country is to become smokefree.
The tobacco harm reduction expert pointed out that while the local smoking rates are at an all time low, the situation is still dire. “At 11.6% percent, the number of adult New Zealanders smoking is at an all-time low. This has been achieved by increasing tobacco excise, and though education. As it stands, smoking still kills about 5,000 Kiwis a year – or 12 people a day.”
Vaping contributes to decreased smoking rates
On the other hand, the advent of e-cigarettes has had a dramatically positive effect on the situation. “With approximately 200,000 adult Kiwis now regular vapers, vaping’s contribution to the lower smoking rate has also been significant. In short, vaping has been very successful at getting Kiwis off the cancer sticks. It will also be key to others quitting if vaping products remain accessible and appealing to adult smokers keen to switch.”
Loucas added that sadly, many still consider smoking and vaping to be equally risky. “It’s a ridiculous lumping when one has killed 50,000 Kiwis in the past 10 years while the other has not led to one reported death in New Zealand but has instead saved thousands of lives.”
In line with claims from the US, some local media have said that there is a growing teen vaping epidemic. However, a survey of over 27,000 students conducted last year by University of Auckland researchers, found no such thing. The study found that only 0.8% of 14 and 15-year-olds were regular vapers, confirming that there is no vaping epidemic.
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Meanwhile, the public consultation on the smokefree discussion document closes on the 31st of May. “I support tougher rules and regulations for tobacco. However, the Government would better advance smokefree if it also focused on risk proportionate measures for vaping,” said Loucas about the document.
She added that the discussion document should have picked up on vaping’s success at reducing smoking rates. “Afterall, the Health Ministry, Health Promotion Agency, and District Health Boards have all successfully run ‘Vape to Quit’ promotions and programmes for years.”