The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ), the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) and the Lung Foundation Australia are joining forces to call for a ban of disposable vaping products in New Zealand.
"Disposable vapes are cheap, widely accessible products that are now popular with our non-smoking youth," explains ARFNZ Chief Executive Letitia Harding. "They are widely viewed as a ‘gateway vaping product’ and are often marketed as easy to use for beginners. This is of grave concern as these vapes can contain very high quantities of nicotine, up to 50 mg/ml in New Zealand."
TSANZ CEO, Vincent So says that banning disposables is sensible public health policy. "At TSANZ, we are strongly supportive of the Australian government taking a tough stance through a raft of e-cigarette controls including banning this single-use gateway into a lifetime of addiction."
"Lung Foundation Australia has been leading the advocacy efforts for a ban on these harmful products in Australia, and the newly announced reforms will significantly reduce the accessibility and ease of vaping for young people, while not disadvantaging those who need access as a quit smoking tool," explains Lung Foundation Australia Chief Executive Mark Brooke.
"In Australia, like across the globe, we have seen the massive uptake of disposable vapes by young people, and this is a result of the clever marketing, flavouring and packaging of disposable vapes. These young people would likely never have taken up tobacco smoking but unfortunately because of vapes are putting their lung health at significant risk."
TSANZ President Professor Anne Holland explains that recent evidence from Australia suggests that heavy restriction of e-cigarette products, including disposables, would not be a roadblock to e-cigarette users successfully quitting. "Disposables have no proven therapeutic value, are rarely used for smoking cessation efforts, and even less so by the main groups who want to give up nicotine forever."
Another important reason to ban disposable vapes is the impact they are having on the environment. "These are single-use plastic products which contain lithium batteries, electrical circuits and traces of heavy metals, and when not disposed of properly, will pollute our environment. Eroding batteries can leak lithium into soil and water sources, and the plastic casings often end up in our oceans," explains Ms Harding."
"Environmentally conscious young people may not be aware of the impact their vaping is having on the planet. Once the issue is better understood, I think many young people will support a ban on disposables," she says.
Australia and New Zealand have very different approaches to regulating vaping products, with the Australian Health Minister announcing recently that clamping down on non-prescription e-cigarettes is one of its public health priorities going forward. The Australian government has committed to banning single-use disposables, amongst a raft of other reforms. In New Zealand, e-cigarettes can be bought over the counter from thousands of retailers across the country. Despite e-cigarettes being illegal in both countries for people under 18, underage e-cigarette use remains a serious issue on both sides of the Tasman.
"We now know that vaping negatively affects the lungs, and there is concern about what the long-term health impact will be," explains TSANZ New Zealand President Dr Fingleton. "Research so far has shown that vaping and second-hand vaping does cause lung damage, increases coughing and worsens symptoms of respiratory conditions like asthma."
Most vapes contain nicotine, which has known negative impacts on young brains. They also contain additives and flavours many of which have not been tested for the effect on lungs. "These ingredients may have been approved for use in food products, but that is quite different to the delicate lining of the lungs. By choosing to vape, young people are gambling with their long-term respiratory health," says Ms Harding.
All three organisations agree that banning disposable vapes is a sensible way to limit the availability of vapes to young people and limit further environmental damage. "Both Australia and New Zealand are seeing unacceptably high levels of young people vaping and growing levels of vape-related rubbish, much of it from disposable vapes. Australia is now set to be a world leader in vaping reform, and I hope to see New Zealand step up and ban disposables at the very least, as it would be a smart solution to address both issues," says Mr Brooke.