Vaping key to Smoke Free 2025 goal
11 March 2019
By Ben Pryor
It’s great the Government has announced it’s committed to amending the 1990 Smoke-free Environments Act. This follows Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa submitting a paper to cabinet in November titled “Supporting smokers to switch to significantly less harmful alternatives.”
The cabinet paper makes clear the main intentions of any legislative changes would be “to improve smokers’ access to quality vaping and smokeless tobacco products, while protecting children and young people” as well as “improving publicly available information on vaping.”
With an eye on achieving Smoke Free 2025, the Government is also keen to improve the regulation around the products and industry. This is something our Kiwi-owned vaping companies VAPO and Alt have been advocating for over five years. Ultimately such improvements will only give smokers a better chance of quitting.
Currently we employ over 60 people, have a factory and laboratory, a distribution centre, seven shops, and a busy online business. We hope to employ 100 people by the end of this year, but it hasn’t been easy trying to second guess our business position and what we can say marketing wise.
With ‘big tobacco’ now bringing their vaping and e-cigarette products into New Zealand, we had little choice but to roll out the country’s first ever vaping television commercials recently. Inevitably, the Advertising Standards Authority received two or three complaints by people largely concerned as to whether we could even advertise in the first place.
This confirmed to us the urgent need for greater clarification around vaping, distinguishing the considerably safer practice from the dangers of smoking. Yes, many vapers are absorbing nicotine which is of course addictive, but nicotine itself has never been found to be carcinogenic. Hence vaping can never be equated to smoking or treated the same.
In fact vaping has proven to be at least 95% less harmful than conventional cigarettes according to significant overseas studies. While just recently the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published research confirming vaping is nearly twice as effective as other nicotine-replacement products for smokers wanting to quit.
Like the Government our company’s key ambition is to help create a smoke free New Zealand where our country is free from cigarettes and tobacco by 2025.
However if New Zealand is to even get close to achieving such a goal, vaping and e-cigarette products must not only be readily available but be more accepted as a much healthier alternative.
Over the holiday period public health organisation Hapai Te Hauora urged the high number of Maori women who smoke to vape as an effective way to quit. Health pressure group ASH, Quitline New Zealand, and the Ministry of Health all openly acknowledge the health and economic benefits of smokers transitioning to vaping, as did the Associate Minister’s cabinet paper late last year.
In early January Quitline reportedly received a 30% increase in calls, largely sparked by many frustrated smokers trying to deliver on their New Year resolutions and tobacco taxes ramping up again.
Putting aside the terrible health effects on smokers and families, the sheer cost of tobacco is hammering New Zealand’s poorest households like never before. Greater clarity on vaping’s manufacturing, availability, promotion and health advantages will give more Kiwis the power and confidence to transition off cigarettes.
As well as restricting indoor vaping, we also support the introduction of strict manufacturing standards. Currently there are too many Kiwis consuming e-liquids, for example, which are not tested or regulated with some literally being made up in people’s garages.
We also strongly support clear advertising guidelines for these R18 products to ensure any marketing is aimed at existing smokers and vapers. Our young people need protection particularly from the large international players who will try it on given half a chance. Guidelines can be easily set, strictly monitored and enforced, just as we see around alcohol advertising.
A complete marketing ban will not help smokers switch, nor will prohibiting flavours. In fact, several overseas studies have highlighted the importance flavours have had in successfully converting smokers to vaping.
What’s more, while we totally support the Government’s plan to ban cigarette smoking in cars when children are present, lumping vaping in as well makes absolutely no sense.Public Health England research last year concluded that “there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to by-standers”.
We look forward to seeing the Government’s proposed changes and improved regulation in place. However we urge legislators to also keep in mind well-intended New Zealand vaping businesses like ours. Kiwis need to be able to compete against the biggest and most aggressive international companies in the world.
Ben Pryor is a founder and director of VAPO and Alt New Zealand – leading New Zealand-owned and operated vaping and e-cigarette companies.