The co-director of the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA), Nancy Loucas, said that ministerial diary records show that Dr. Verrall held teleconferences ahead of releasing the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan discussion document for public consultation. The consulted groups included ASH, Hapai te Hauora, and the NZ College of Physicians.

Loucas said that the fact that these groups were consulted is a very good sign because they are aware of the role vaping products and other nicotine safer alternatives can play in reducing smoking rates. “These groups are very supportive of vaping’s key role in smoking cessation. It’s very encouraging then that Dr. Verrall is prepared to listen to their on the ground experiences before she finalizes her smokefree action plan.”

“If we are to achieve the country’s decade long smokefree ambition then vaping’s role needs to be elevated in public policy and programmes. Otherwise, we will never get there. Thankfully, we now have a Minister with considerable public health experience who understands the practice of Tobacco Harm Reduction,” she added.

NZ’s previous health minister was pressured into discarding more risk-proportionate vaping legislation

Prior to Dr. Verrall’s appointment late last year, the AVCA had raised its concerns about the previous Minister Jenny Salesa’s treatment of vaping. The group was disappointed when she caved in the face of undue pressure, when the country could have set in place a more risk-proportionate vaping legislation.

“New Zealand has led the world many times before, but sadly on this occasion anti-vaping influences got into the head of Ms Salesa. In the end, last year’s Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act was a missed opportunity,” she said.

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill has set in place a tobacco age limit of 18,  restrictions on advertising and demands certain standards to ensure product safety. However, it also restricts sales of flavoured vaping products to specialist vape retailers, and has banned nicotine pouches. Based on data from other countries, the latter restrictions are both expected have a negative impact on tobacco harm reduction.

Loucas had welcomed Verrall’s appointment, saying it was good news to tobacco harm reduction experts across New Zealand, as the Associate Health Minister had voiced her support for Smokefree 2025. Verrall, pointed out Loucas, had emphasized the need to achieve this goal, as she believes it is critical given New Zealand’s 5,000 preventable deaths caused every year by tobacco.

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