A leading tobacco harm reduction advocate is encouraging New Zealand’s smokefree supporters and vapers to have their say on the Ministry of Health’s latest draft vaping regulations.
“Regulations are necessary, but they need to be proportionate. Restricting the choices, access, and visibility of vaping – which is a much safer option for smokers – will only add harm. Hence, we are urging the Ministry of Health to tread with caution,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
The regulations follow Parliament last year passing the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020, with public consultation closing on 15 March. Matters under consideration include the display of vaping products in retail stores and on websites.
“The display of vaping products should not be restricted the same as tobacco products. They are not the same, nor should they be treated the same. The fact is, we do not have a youth vaping epidemic in this country, and we won’t have one if we continue to treat safer nicotine products as adult products rather than taboo,” says Ms Loucas.
On the use of harm reduction statements, AVCA does not support limiting information about vaping products in retail premises and on retailers’ websites to written authorised statements from the government.
AVCA is also keen to ensure its advocacy work as a health education charity continues, saying the importance of community and peer support is key in getting Kiwis to quit smoking via vaping.
Restricting oral communications and support to only be done either by a “suitably qualified health worker” or under their supervision is basically a de facto ban on community advocacy, AVCA believes. It says peer support efforts, in particular, have been the driving engine behind the rise of vaping among former smokers,
Ms Loucas says consumers and advocates have been there, done that. They are much more understanding of the situation than a “suitably qualified health worker” who may not have made the same journey to smokefree with vape.
“Frankly, it smacks of medicalisation via the backdoor, as well as restricts freedom of speech.
“It is quite disheartening that the Vaping Regulatory Authority does not recognise the work of the community itself in providing support and information to smokers and mentoring them through their journey to smokefree.
“I am hoping this is an oversight on their part, as they have not consulted with the community on this regulation until this point. We trust they will see the error of these restrictions when reviewing all the feedback,” she says.
AVCA is again taking the opportunity to raise the proposed flavour restrictions which are set to come into effect in August for general retailers who will be permitted to sell just three – menthol, mint, and tobacco.
“Rural and provincial towns not serviced by a specialist vape shop are disproportionately punished by the flavour restrictions proposed for general retailers, so there should be an exemption in this case.”
Ms Loucas says if general retailers in rural areas were given an exemption, they should adhere to the requirements of a specialist vape shop such as age verification, inventory and financial data, and perhaps even keeping a register of purchasers.
On issues pertaining to new packing requirements, AVCA says the independent vape industry should be given more time to comply than international tobacco companies as they simply don’t have the means to implement changes as quickly.
Likewise, on industry fees, AVCA would like to see them structured to give independent Kiwi ‘juice makers’ a break, otherwise they simply won’t be able to compete with the tobacco giants importing products.
“Shortly the Government will release its draft smokefree action plan, but alongside that it’s absolutely critical we get these vaping regulations right. It’s hard enough for people to quit cigarettes. Let’s not make it any harder,” says Ms Loucas.
To make a submission by 5,00pm on 15 March, visit https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/smokefree-environments-and-regulated-products-act-1990-proposals-regulations
AVCA was formed in 2016 by vapers across New Zealand wanting their voices heard in local and central government. All members are former smokers who promote vaping to help smokers quit – a much less harmful alternative to combustible tobacco products. AVCA does not have any affiliation or vested interest in industry – tobacco, pharmaceutical and/or the local vaping manufacturing or retail sectors.