The government of New Zealand has declared that vaping has the potential to improve public health, and is encouraging smokers to use them to switch from combustible cigarettes.

In a statement released last week, the Ministry of Health said that it “believes e-cigarettes have the potential to make a contribution to the Smokefree 2025 goal and could disrupt the significant inequities that are present.” Smokefree 2025 is the government’s plan to reduce smoking to minimal levels by 2025.

“The potential of e-cigarettes to help improve public health depends on the extent to which they can act as a route out of smoking for New Zealand’s 550,000 daily smokers, without providing a route into smoking for children and non-smokers,” said the health ministry press release.

The statement goes on to explain that there is currently no evidence that vaping is attracting never-smoking users, which is accurate. Sadly, it merits a news story when a government acknowledges evidence and speaks truthfully about vaping.

“Expert opinion is that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco but not completely harmless,” the statement says. “A range of toxicants have been found in e-cigarette vapour including some cancer causing agents but, in general, at levels much lower than found in cigarette smoke or at levels that are unlikely to cause harm. Smokers switching to e-cigarettes are highly likely to reduce their health risks and for those around them.”

It’s especially encouraging to watch New Zealand take this bold step while its larger neighbor Australia digs in its heels and refuses to allow smokers any low-risk nicotine product at all. In Oz, tobacco control idealogues run the show, and the clear message to smokers is quit or die.

Key messages:

  • The best thing smokers can do for their health is to quit smoking for good
  • E-cigarettes are intended for smokers only
  • The Ministry believes e-cigarettes could disrupt inequities and contribute to Smokefree 2025
  • The evidence on e-cigarettes indicates they carry much less risk than smoking cigarettes but are not risk free
  • The Cochrane Review found that e-cigarettes can help people to quit smoking, but acknowledges that the evidence is weak due to little data
  • Smokers who have tried other methods of quitting without success could be encouraged to try e-cigarettes to stop smoking. Stop smoking services should support smokers using e-cigarettes to quit
  • There is no international evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining the long-term decline in cigarette smoking among adults and youth, and may in fact be contributing to it
  • Despite some experimentation with e-cigarettes among never smokers, e-cigarettes are attracting very few people who have never smoked into regular e-cigarette use
  • When used as intended, e-cigarettes pose no risk of nicotine poisoning to users, but e-liquids should be in child resistant packaging
  • The Ministry of Health is identifying safety standards for e-cigarettes in New Zealand. In the meantime, vapers should buy their products from a reputable source like specialist retailers.



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