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What’s the NZ Ministry of Health’s Stance on Vaping?

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For a while, life was pretty difficult for vapers here in New Zealand; many smokers refused to adopt vaping as an alternative to smoking because our Ministry of Health banned e-liquid with nicotine. Thankfully, common sense eventually prevailed, and our lawmakers began to accept the mountain of scientific evidence overwhelmingly in favour of vaping and its far more attractive risk profile compared to smoking. 

Even more importantly, our government accepted that vaping stands as our only realistic hope of reaching the Smokefree 2025 goal. Without vaping, smokers simply aren’t quitting at a fast-enough rate to make that goal a reality.

So, where does the NZ Ministry of Health stand on vaping today? Before we explore that question further, let’s look a bit more closely at how we got to where we are today.

Why Did the Ministry of Health Change Its Stance on Vaping?

Several factors contributed to the eventual repeal of the New Zealand ban on nicotine e-liquid. Firstly, citizens in New Zealand and observers in the rest of the world criticised the NZ government for taking a stance that the scientific data simply didn’t support. The ban on nicotine e-liquid seemed rooted more in the vilification of nicotine users than in a genuine desire to give those addicted to nicotine access to a less harmful alternative they would actually want to use.

Meanwhile, government-sponsored smoking cessation campaigns have continued to produce diminishing returns. As of 2020, an estimated 490,000 New Zealanders still smoke. That’s about 12.5 percent of the population. While the smoking rate continues to decline nearly every year, there is no way at the current rate that New Zealand will become smoke free by 2025. The roadmap originally laid out for Smokefree 2025 specified that, in order to reach the goal, New Zealand’s smoking rate would have to reach 10 percent by 2018. That didn’t happen.

Moreover, around 5,000 New Zealanders still die from smoking each year, either directly or indirectly via second-hand exposure. Whether we become smoke free by 2025 or not, it is the responsibility of our lawmakers to do everything possible to prevent those deaths from happening.

The Ministry of Health Supports Responsible Vaping Regulations

While our elected officials recognise the role that vaping can play in ridding New Zealand of tobacco use, the government also understands that responsible regulation is necessary if we are to ensure that adult smokers have access to appealing and affordable vaping products while also making sure that those same products are unappealing – and difficult to access – for children. To meet those goals, the New Zealand Parliament has begun the process of putting comprehensive vaping regulations in place. Here are some of the changes that are likely to come to the vaping industry soon.

  • Most vaping products will be available only in specialty vape shops that do not admit minors.
  • Vaping products available in standard retail stores will be limited to tobacco, mint and menthol flavours to minimise the potential appeal to minors.
  • All online sales of vaping products will require age verification at the time of delivery.
  • A limit for e-liquid nicotine strengths will be implemented to minimise the addictive potential of e-cigarettes while ensuring that those products remain satisfying enough to enable smokers to switch.
  • E-liquid products will require child-resistant packaging.
  • Minors will also be prohibited from buying nicotine-free vaping products to help ensure that those products can’t become gateways to nicotine use.
  • Vaping will be prohibited wherever smoking isn’t allowed, except in vape shops.
  • The government’s official stance on vaping will remain that it is an alternative for those already addicted to nicotine and should not be pursued as a hobby by those who do not use nicotine already.

The NZ Ministry of Health Supports Vaping for Smoking Cessation

In February 2020, Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa introduced the Ministry of Health’s proposed vaping regulations to Parliament. We’ve outlined several of the details above and believe that the members of the Ministry of Health have done their best to draft regulations that will protect New Zealand’s public health and ensure that smokers continue to have access to a viable alternative to tobacco while making it as difficult as possible for children to access vaping products. 

Most importantly, the Ministry of Health recognises vaping as a viable means of quitting smoking. In discussing the proposed regulations, Salesa cited the importance of “making sure vaping is available for smokers who want to use it as a quit tool for cigarettes.” 

After the proposed vaping bill has had its first reading in Parliament, the New Zealand government will open the bill up for public comment. If you have any issues with the proposed vaping regulations, the government wants to hear from you. In the meantime, though, it’s comforting to know that the Ministry of Health recognises the importance of vaping and wants to ensure that adults will retain their access to one of the most effective smoking cessation products the world has ever seen.

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