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.