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Vaping Legislation, A Good Starting Point

By Jonathan Devery – The Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand

Earlier this month a campaign titled ‘Don’t Get Sucked In’ was launched with a whimper. One organisation’s plan to supposedly tackle teen vaping fell completely flat despite their promise last year of a big bang.

They should’ve launched their campaign six months ago when the international media narrative on vaping was very negative, with many Kiwis starting to think vaping was not only rife but dangerous.

Campaign organisers had delayed their launch anticipating an alarming teenage vaping survey being released. However, the alarm never sounded. Instead, University of Auckland researchers last month concluded there was no youth vaping epidemic in New Zealand.

Researchers had assessed data from an annual ASH (Action for Smokefree 2025) Year 10 survey of over 27,000 students aged 14 and 15. They confirmed youth vaping rates remain very low with any vaping largely confined to those who have smoked.

In summary: Young Kiwi teenagers are simply not getting sucked in!

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa has now introduced the long-awaited Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill into Parliament. It’s a really good start.

The Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand (VTANZ) that I represent has been calling for regulation for over five years. Without doubt, vaping needs strict R18 enforcement to protect young people and high product standards.

Consumers also deserve a viable alternative to smoking. The proposals to restrict the most popular adult flavours to specialist vape stores and ban all advertising will not help one smoker quit tobacco. In fact, such moves could lead to rising smoking rates, and many public health advocates agree.

While limiting flavours to tobacco, menthol and mint in corner dairies has some merit, extending such restrictions to all supermarkets and service stations is too tough when those retail environments are heavily controlled.

Ex-adult smokers love flavours, that is how they’ve managed to quit tobacco. In fact, we know 90% of adult smokers require vape flavours to successfully make the switch. We all agree that flavoured vapes have been a huge contributor to New Zealand’s record-low smoking rates.

It’s positive that specialist vape stores can still sell all flavours but prohibiting popular adult flavours everywhere else won’t make any difference to youth vaping rates. There remains no evidence, here or overseas, that flavours lead to youth vaping and vaping leads to smoking. The latest ASH survey completely reinforces that.

Another barrier to vaping access and appeal is the proposed total advertising ban. The industry needs to be able to communicate the benefits of its products to adult smokers, even in a heavily restricted way akin to alcohol, in order to convert them to something 95% less harmful.

Things have been established in recent weeks which have helped return considerable calm to the vaping debate. Last year the industry was hammered due to heavily reported, but unrelated, issues in US.

In January the all-powerful Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) backed down from its previous warning about e-cigarette use. Its latest investigation pointed to black market THC vaping products for last year’s outbreak of US hospitalisations, with any health issues continuing to fall.

This followed our own Ministry of Health confirming there were no signs of similar concerns here. In fact, there have been no vaping-related health issues, let alone deaths, reported in New Zealand over the past decade. Whereas, 50,000 Kiwis have died from smoking-related issues in the past 10 years.

With no ties to Big Tobacco, VTANZ brings together almost all of New Zealand’s largest independent vape brands, manufacturers, and retailers. It’s a positive and growing sector, employing hundreds of Kiwis.

Most of us are ex-smokers, proud of the role that vaping has played in getting New Zealand’s overall smoking rate down to a record 12.5%. Annual tobacco tax hikes and education have helped for sure, but the availability of vaping has helped the most.

We strongly believe restricting the types of retailers selling cigarettes should be the next step in the country’s Smokefree 2025 aspiration, not burying a product that has been proven to be the best smoking cessation tool in global history.

International examples show getting too tough on vaping availability and appeal for adult smokers will only result in smoking rates rising and a dangerous unregulated black market emerging. Remember the US hospitalisations?

Enshrining product standards and cementing vaping’s R18 status we can totally agree on. However, Parliament needs to tread carefully this year if it wants New Zealand’s smoking rates to keep falling.

It’s time for cool heads and rational debate. No one is claiming vaping is perfect, but without doubt it reduces harm substantially and represents a smoker’s best chance of quitting tobacco for good.

© Scoop Media

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