Significantly less harmful than smoking
New Zealand is likely to legalize e-cigarettes containing nicotine soon. The government has released a consultation document and solicited public comment on the proposal. Vapers and other interested citizens are encouraged to make suggestions based on the document. Consumer products containing nicotine are illegal in New Zealand, as they are in neighbor Australia. Except for cigarettes, of course.
Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga explained the proposal to the New Zealand Herald. “Currently the sale and supply of e-cigarettes containing nicotine is prohibited in New Zealand. However people are buying them online and importing directly for personal use,” Lotu-Iiga said. “The proposal is to make the sale and supply of all e-cigarettes lawful in New Zealand with appropriate controls.”
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are a relatively new and evolving product. Currently, the sale and supply of nicotine e-cigarettes are prohibited, while smoked tobacco, which is more harmful for users, can be sold legally. Users obtain nicotine e-cigarettes through importation and illegal local sales. The existing provisions for the regulation of e-cigarettes, found primarily in the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 (SFEA) and the Medicines Act 1981, are not adequate. The legal status of e-cigarettes is currently confusing and, as a consequence, the laws are not routinely enforced.
The risks and benefits of e-cigarettes are uncertain. There is a lack of clarity about long-term health risks to users and the potential adverse effects on non-users exposed to e-cigarette vapour. It has been suggested that the availability of these products could undermine current tobacco control initiatives. There is ongoing scientific debate about whether e-cigarettes are an effective tool for smokers who want to quit. At the same time, there is general scientific consensus that the exclusive use of e-cigarettes is significantly less harmful than smoking. There is emerging evidence that e-cigarette use may substantially reduce the burden of disease caused by smoking.
The Ministry of Health is now consulting on policy options for the regulation of e-cigarettes, including possible amendments to the SFEA. This consultation aims to clarify the legal position. Proposed amendments would mean that all e-cigarettes (with and without nicotine) would be available for sale and supply lawfully in New Zealand, but sale of e-cigarettes would be restricted to people 18 years of age and over, advertising of e-cigarettes would be restricted and the use of e-cigarettes would be prohibited in areas defined as smokefree in the SFEA.
The Ministry also seeks your feedback on whether other controls currently in place under the SFEA for smoked tobacco products should be applied to e-cigarettes and whether there is a need for quality control and product safety.
After the public consultation on the proposals presented in this paper, the Ministry will develop precise regulatory proposals and report back to Cabinet by the end of this year.
The government proposal would allow sales to people over 18, but it would ban use in smoke-free areas, and prevent advertising. Child-proof packaging and restrictions on e-liquid contents will be considered.
The pro-vaping group End Smoking NZ celebrated the decision. “The Associate Minister of Health, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga has made the right decision,” said End Smoking’s Chairperson Associate Professor Marewa Glover in a press release Tuesday. “He has listened with compassion to smokers and vapers. We are so relieved that our pragmatic nature as a country has triumphed over the negative misinformation and unfounded fears that have dominated the debate for too long.”
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Dr. Murray Laugesen. “This will be a turning point that will have a significant impact on reducing the death and disease caused by smoking.”
The government is accepting public comments through September 12. Vapers should take this opportunity to urge the government to not limit nicotine levels or restrict open-system products, and to rethink a ban on advertising.