The proposed Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill is a positive step forward but has room for improvement, says Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ Chief Executive Letitia Harding.
Much of what ARFNZ wanted to see from vaping regulation, such as restricting sales to over 18s, prohibiting advertising of vaping products, and introducing labelling and safety standards, have been addressed in the proposed amendment.
"This legislation is about 95% of what we wanted to see from a respiratory health perspective, and we’re really pleased to see the Bill finally being introduced to Parliament today," says Letitia. "We’re still interested in how safety standards will be set and regulated, and how 18+ sales will be regulated online, but these issues exist in other industries too, and won’t be solved overnight."
ARFNZ’s main concern surrounds advice to customers, and what form this advice will take. While recommendations and demonstrations should happen in vape stores only, the kind of advice given should focus not only on what the most suitable products are, but also on smoking cessation support. Letitia says that if these products are intended to help people quit smoking, there should be robust support systems in place to accomplish this, delivered at the point of sale.
"Studies have repeatedly shown that smoking rates in New Zealand are not overall decreasing due to the introduction of vaping, and many people are actually doing both," says Letitia. "The goal should always be to eventually quit vaping as well. Resources, support, and advice such as that from Quitline should be supplied in speciality vape stores to encourage people to quit, and programmes around reducing nicotine levels, as we see in other smoking cessation products, should be implemented and promoted."
ARFNZ’s recent ‘ Don’t Get Sucked In’ campaign aimed at addressing misinformation among young people and discouraging non-smokers from picking up vaping. The campaign has been well received by many in the education and health sectors, who felt the emphasis has been on vaping being less harmful than smoking, but there was a lack of information on harm, especially around negative effects of nicotine addiction among young people.
"The Foundation have said that we are happy to work with the vaping industry and Government to help create and inform this advice, and we are reiterating that now. As the advocacy group for the 700,000 Kiwis with a respiratory illness, many of whom attribute their issues to smoking, we want to see Smokefree 2025 become reality.
"Our shared goal is better respiratory health for New Zealand, and we should be working together to achieve it."