Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall has done well not to get side-tracked by constant and unrelated attacks on vaping by MPs debating the smokefree amendment bill in Parliament, says Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) advocates.
“Some MPs seem determined to rewrite 2020’s well supported vaping legislation. However, the problems around youth vaping are more around enforcement and, frankly, an absence of parental responsibility,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
The Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill progressed through its second reading and committee stage in Parliament last week. Its third reading and Royal assent will then see it pass into law.
Dr Verrall has long aimed to have the smokefree legislation passed by the end of the year. It will decrease the number of retail outlets able to sell tobacco, reduce the appeal of cigarettes, and ensure the next generation are never sold tobacco.
“The Minister has made it clear that she understands MPs’ concerns around youth vaping, but she’s also determined to keep her eye on the prize. This piece of legislation is about combustible tobacco – the real scourge and killer on our society,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA says the vaping regulations are still being rolled out and their full impact has yet to be felt. In the meantime, it’s calling on the Government to ensure greater compliance of the rules via the Vaping Regulatory Authority.
“Some people do their best to paint a picture that vaping is out of control and it’s the wild west. The reality is vaping has never been more heavily regulated. Products are strictly sanctioned R18, all advertising is banned, and packaging and displays are restricted,” she says.
AVCA says the latest smokefree bill will help to put New Zealand on track to achieve Smokefree 2025 – where five percent or fewer smoke. However, the country’s decade-long national smokefree goal can only be achieved if a viable alternative is available for Kiwi adults who smoke desperate to quit cigarettes.
“Despite some hysteria, nicotine is not the problem. Rather, it’s combustible cigarettes that lead to about 5,000 Kiwis dying from smoking rated illness each year,” she says.
Reiterating the importance of providing access to safer nicotine products for Kiwi adults, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall recently said: ‘We need to continue supporting people who smoke tobacco to successfully switch to less harmful products.’
New Zealand’s THR strategy is working well. Last month it was revealed that New Zealand’s smoking rate had fallen to an historic low of 8% of adults smoking daily, down from 9.4% a year ago.
“Dr Verrall understands better than anyone that to eradicate the harm from combustible tobacco, vaping products need to be available with comparable nicotine levels. That’s how smokers successfully switch to harm reduced products,” says Nancy Loucas.