Confirmed: Govt’s official view on vaping changes
Wednesday, 8 May 2019
The Government is set to publicly revise its view on vaping with details of its new position and legislative timetable released today by two key vaping industry leaders.
The Associate Health Minister has advised that the Health Promotion Agency (HPA) will this month launch “a public campaign aimed at supporting smokers to successfully switch to vaping.” The move has been confirmed in ministerial correspondence with the owners of the largest New Zealand-owned vaping business.
“Vaping as an effective tool to quit smoking, and this fact will soon come with a concrete Government endorsement. This has been hard fought for and long awaited. It’s great news for everyone committed to New Zealand becoming tobacco-free,” says Jonathan Devery, who is a co-founder of VAPO and Alt New Zealand with Ben Pryor.
In recent years the Ministry of Health has been somewhat agnostic on vaping. Its website still claims that it “does not have enough evidence to recommend vaping products confidently as a smoking-cessation tool.” However, that’s all about to change.
Mr Devery says the Government’s formal change of position is significant. It reflects compelling international evidence, and ultimately can only help New Zealand reach its ambitious goal of Smoke Free 2025.
Associate Minister Jenny Salesa has also confirmed in the correspondence with the vaping entrepreneurs that in addition to the HPA launching a website this month offering vaping information and tips, a media campaign will take place from August.
What’s more, Ms Salesa said the Smoke-free Environments (Vaping) Amendment Bill is on the 2019 legislative agenda. She has advised she expects to introduce a bill to Parliament in the third quarter of this year and would like to see it passed before the middle of 2020.
“We’re more encouraged than ever with how the Government’s thinking on vaping may be shaping up. However, we remain concerned with the Minister’s advice that any ability to contribute to the bill will be when it’s at select committee. That’s the time she says to provide comment on issues like advertising or flavours.
“The real fear for the industry is that any debates over critical issues will fast become emotionally-based. We just hope the Government’s decisions will be evidence-based, as is their latest decision to publicly promote vaping as an effective smoking cessation tool.”
Mr Devery says prohibiting flavours, for example, will not help any smokers switch. He says several overseas studies have highlighted the importance flavours have had in successfully converting smokers to vaping.
He agrees vaping advertising and sales need to be regulated, as is the case with alcohol, but any talk of a complete marketing ban is simply unnecessary and again is not supported by evidence.
“The Minister herself recently released research that showed vaping by 14 and 15-year olds remains very low and in fact is falling. If young Kiwi teenagers were so compelled by all current online marketing and flavours now available, we’d be seeing a much higher uptake of second school students vaping, but we’re simply not.”
He notes that HPA prides itself on being an “evidence-based health promotion organisation,” and its imminent public campaign to encourage smokers to quit via vaping reflects just that.
“Our plea to the Minister and Government over the coming the months as they draft the legislation and create a regulatory framework is to take a leaf out of HPA’s book. Let’s keep delivering evidence-based decisions, and not give into any misguided emotion,” says Jonathan Devery.