The country’s Ministry of Health has released a consultation paper, seeking feedback into the way the products should be sold.
At the moment, the regulations in New Zealand are similar to Australia, in that it’s illegal to sell nicotine liquids, but you can import it for personal use.
It’s believed the change of heart followed the screening of the documentary, A Billion Lives, which had its world premiere in New Zealand in May. The film took a look at the rise of electronic cigarettes and uncovered evidence that indicated governments were banning vaping while ignoring the science, or in some cases being complicit with the tobacco industry in keeping people addicted to a harmful product. A couple of days after the documentary screened, the NZ Government announced it was going to reconsider its ban on “nicotine vapour technology”.
It was just this week that the New Zealand Health Ministry announced its policy consultation, acknowledging that while the health risks of long-term vaping were unknown, the general scientific consensus was that it was significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco.
The Health Ministry conceded that the current laws were confusing and were not being enforced.
Submissions will be taken until September 12, but Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga said he believed allowing liquid nicotine should be an option.
“The proposal is to make the sale and supply of all e-cigarettes lawful in New Zealand with appropriate controls,” he said.
“We’ve still got high smoking rates, particularly amongst Maori, particularly amongst Pacific, pregnant women. We’ve got to look at all the options available to us.”
According to the proposals, the sale of e-cigarettes would be restricted to over 18s, there would be restrictions on advertising and they would be banned from being used in smoke-free areas. The consultation process will also look into how to tax e-cigarettes and where vape gear can be displayed and sold.
However it seems the move to allow nicotine sales has bipartisan support. Labour’s health spokesperson Annette King told stuff.co.nz the proposal is a “sensible move”.
“They will not be making them available and legal without advice, and I have said for some time that it can be another tool to help reduce consumption of tobacco.”
Ms King said she believed smokers needed “as many tools as possible” to help them quit, along with mechanisms such as nicotine patches and gum.
“The argument has been that there will be people that would take up e-cigarettes and start smoking e-cigarettes, well I don’t know the evidence that people would actually do that,” she said.
Health advocate says it’s the right step.
Massey University associate professor of public health Marewa Glover welcomed the move.
She told NZ’s News Hub it was a triumph over misinformation.
“It’s estimated to be at least 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco, so it is a harm reduction approach,” Dr Glover said.
“It is about shifting people from this very, very harmful smoking of tobacco, and – for those who want to – to switch to vaping nicotine.
“He has listened with compassion to smokers and vapers,” she said.
“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.”
Mr Lotu-liga said he hoped to make a recommendation to Cabinet by the end of the year.