“Malaysia has sent a parliamentary delegation to New Zealand to see what policies are required to achieve smokefree. Their visit reflects that Kiwis are getting the mix right when it comes to tobacco control, legalising and regulating vaping,” says Nancy Loucas co-founder of the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
Her comments come as members of a special Malaysian Health, Science & Innovation select committee visit New Zealand. They have signalled they’re meeting with the Minister of Health, as well as Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) advocates and experts to learn exactly what New Zealand is doing to achieve its national ambition of Smokefree 2025.
“The visiting Malaysian delegation is a timely reminder to New Zealand MPs to keep focused on the prize – that is crushing combustible tobacco and not try to re-litigate the 2020 vaping legislation which is still bedding in and is the envy of plenty,” says Ms Loucas.
Now before parliament’s Health select committee, New Zealand’s Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill limits the number of retailers able to sell smoked tobacco products, aims to make tobacco products less appealing and addictive, and prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or after.
Similarly, Malaysia’s ‘generational endgame’ bill proposes to ban the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone born during and after 2007. However, Malaysia’s Health Minister has proposed adding vaping products to the generational ban – a move which has been criticised by advocacy group MOVE (Malaysian Organization of Vape Entities).
“As a percentage, Malaysia has more than twice as many smokers than New Zealand. Hopefully the visiting delegation will take a clear message back to Malaysia that you can’t achieve smokefree without providing a safer, viable alternative,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA says New Zealand’s overall smoking rate has rapidly declined over the past decade thanks to public health authorities actively encouraging smoking cessation through vaping.
In fact, New Zealand’s overall adult daily smoking rate has fallen from 18% in 2006/07 to 9.4% in 2020/21.
“New Zealand’s vaping regulation is not perfect, but the fact is Kiwi adult smokers desperate to quit can assess an effective alternative via retail outlets. They don’t have to break the law and they know the products they’re purchasing comply to stringent safety standards,” she says.
Ms Loucas says AVCA supports the intent of New Zealand’s latest smokefree bill. Together with the 2020 vaping legislation and regulation New Zealand could achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 – where five percent or fewer of the general population regularly smoke.
“Malaysia’s generational endgame bill must only ban the purchase of combustible tobacco not safer nicotine products.The 21% of Malaysians who smoke deserve a viable, harm reduced, and legal alternative. Only by adopting a New Zealand-like model will Malaysia reduce its overall smoking rate fourfold to below five percent by 2040, as is the national goal,” says Samsul Arrifin.
“New Zealand’s smoking has halved in recent years because politicians, health officials and agencies have embraced, not banned, nicotine vaping as an effective smoking cessation tool. If Malaysia is serious about tackling their smoking epidemic, they’d do the same,” says Nancy Loucas.