Sparkly vaping products appealing to teenagers can be bought on line and in stores in the likes of Cuba St, Wellington
Officials and the health minister are batting off controversy as asthma and respiratory health experts raise the alarm on extending the availability of e-cigarettes.
It’s understood the Ministry of Health has been pushing ahead on how the smoke-free legislation can be amended to allow and regulate sale of e-cigarettes, including those that contain nicotine.
The former National Government planned light regulations, allowing a range of retail outlets to stock the products, with similar advertising restrictions to those with tobacco products.
The ministry would say only that it’s working through a process with stakeholders; details were not available by deadline.
An initial statement from health minister David Clark read: “I support any evidence-based initiatives that reduce the harm caused by smoking.”
Asked to elaborate, his office later supplied the comments that Dr Clark looked forward to a tobacco control briefing from officials, and was interested in meeting the broader health sector to hear their views about reducing smoking.
"At this stage, it is too early to say whether this will lead to any changes to initiatives started by the previous Government."
Meanwhile, some in the sector are expecting changes to go before Parliament in March next year, and to come into force in 2019.
The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand wants the Labour-led Government to take a pause and take stock, says chief executive Letitia O’Dwyer.
Ms O’Dwyer says it should look closely at the limited nature of the evidence on the harms of e-cigarettes and on their effectiveness in smoking cessation.
She says the market has already been left to thrive unregulated. Sparkly vaping products appealing to teenagers can be bought online and in stores in the likes of Cuba St, Wellington.
Ms O’Dwyer sees no reason for law changes that would potentially expand this market to young people. If the products are for smoking cessation, they should be regulated for use in wraparound services, she says.
In a statement, the ministry’s manager tobacco control programme, Jane Chambers, says the ministry agrees with expert opinion that e-cigarettes are:
· significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco
· not completely harmless, and
· intended for smokers only.
The ministry does not promote e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool, she says. To be part of smoking cessation services, they would have to be approved as such.
To date, no one has applied for approval of an e-cigarette as a stop-smoking medicine.