VAPING with nicotine is now legal in New Zealand.
The country’s ministry of health has announced all tobacco products (except types that are chewed or dissolved in the mouth) can be lawfully imported, sold and distributed under the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990.
The move has been on the cards for over a year after Health Minister Nicky Wagner revealed in March 2017 how it was set to adopt a low-risk approach to legalizing vaping, since "scientific evidence was still being developed".
Last August, the health ministry went further by confirming smokeless tobacco products such as snus and inhaled nicotine were going to be added to the list of legalized products as part of the Smokefree 2025 campaign.
Following the new legislation, Wagner said the government was now looking forward to seeing how allowing people to vape might affect smoking rates.
“There’s a general consensus that vaping is much less harmful than smoking. The Government is taking a cautious approach by aligning the regulations around vaping with those for cigarettes. This ensures cigarette smokers have access to a lower-risk alternative while we continue to discourage people from smoking or vaping in the first place,” Wagner said.
He explained further: “This is an opportunity to see if restricted access to e-cigarettes and e-liquid can help lower our smoking rates, reduce harm and save lives. The Government is strongly committed to achieving our goal of a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025.”
In the meantime e-cigarette sales to under 18s will remain prohibited and vaping in spaces where smoking is banned, will remain forbidden.
Nicotine vaping proponents in Australia meanwhile, where vaping with nicotine remains banned, say New Zealand's latest move is "a victory for common sense".
“Essentially, New Zealand is recognising that ... vaping devices which heat a nicotine solution without smoke or combustion are substantially safer than products which burn tobacco, like cigarettes," said University of NSW professor Colin Mendelsohn who is calling for it to be legalized now in Australia.
"Most of the harm from combustible tobacco is caused by the 7000 chemicals produced by the burning process and these are mostly absent from vapour.
"It is unethical and unscientific to ban a much safer product that could help many thousands of smokers to quit a deadly addiction.
"It would be a mistake to delay these products for another 20 to 30 years. Too many lives are at stake."