Recent decisions by Government has seen it take a ‘less harmful than smoking tobacco’ approach on the regulation of e-cigarettes and nicotine-delivery products.
“As far as we’re aware, there is no good evidence demonstrating that using e-cigarettes will reduce the incidence of smoking normal tobacco cigarettes,” says Letitia O’Dwyer, Chief Executive of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ).
ARFNZ stands firm on its position statement on e-cigarettes as follows:
There is no evidence for a public health claim for an unregulated approach to e-cigarettes and personal vaporizers. ARFNZ recommends that if there is support for e-cigarette use in New Zealand as a smoking cessation device, then these products should be classified as therapeutic devices and regulated through Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), Medsafe and PHARMAC. If not intended as part of a smoking cessation plan then e-cigarettes should have the same restricted sale and accessibility placed on them as conventional cigarettes e.g. prohibit sale and supply in public places, not sold to under 18 year olds and no point of sale advertising of e-cigarettes and e-liquids.
“The last thing we want to happen is for our young generation of New Zealanders to pick up e-cigarettes thinking they are not harmful and inadvertently becoming an entry to a smoking habit,” says Dr Stuart Jones, President of the Thoracic Society of New Zealand and Medical Director of ARFNZ.
“The position of the Thoracic Society is that these products are likely to be harmful to the lungs long-term. We cannot think of any other product which is manufactured to be inhaled, that has not been through stringent regulatory controls. This is vitally important and e-cigarettes should not be given a free ride. We have seen the damage caused by letting cigarettes escape regulation and New Zealand can ill afford to make the same mistake again,” says Dr Jones.
“In terms of e-cigarettes being used as a smoking cessation aid, the evidence is weak at best. We have heard that e-cigarettes are likely to be less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but there are many alternatives already available to assist smokers to quit which have passed stringent regulatory processes. We urge real caution with respect to e-cigarettes. We recognise that for some individuals who struggle to give up using current smoking cessation aids, the use of e-cigarettes may be beneficial, but we need to make sure that we’re targeting that group,” says Dr Jones.
“Using unregulated e-cigarettes to reduce tobacco smoking in Aotearoa is akin to introducing stoats to control rabbits. This concept of becoming so widespread and of greater negative impact than originally thought is of concern here. Another current issue is unregulated ingredients – anything could go in them. If used as part of a smoking cessation plan, the Government should ensure that nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid (vaping products) are regulated with product safety standards,” says O’Dwyer.
Since the Government has voiced its stance, the ARFNZ urges that in addition to regulation, e-cigarettes be part of a proper smoking cessation programme by the Ministry of Health – a wraparound service involving health professionals at a primary and community care level.
The ARFNZ also raises concern that there is significant conflict of interest on the Ministry of Health Electronic Cigarette Technical Expert Advisory Group with three industry representatives (including a buyer for Cosmic retail stores) giving advice on Electronic Cigarette Product Safety. This is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.
ARFNZ voiced its position statement at a Ministry of Health meeting on 7 November 2017, discussing the update on proposed regulations for e-cigarettes and nicotine-delivery products.