That umbrella, we employed it – by August we were an indoor area subject to a vaping ban

Dr Eric Crampton
Insights Newsletter
12 March, 2021

It’s a good thing I don’t vape. If I did, I’d be depressed about the Ministry of Health’s proposed vaping regulations. Instead, I get to see the dark humour in the rules rather than suffer under them.

For a brief shining period, vapers had freedom. The courts said vaping had never been illegal in the first place, and the abruptly-legalised sector organised itself rather well. Retailers didn’t sell to kids, and Action on Smoking and Health consistently reported that very few kids ever took up vaping.

Lots of smokers shifted. Tobacco excise revenues for the last half of 2020 were a third lower than forecast. It seems unlikely that the drop in tourist numbers can take credit.

But fear not, regulation is coming.

The Ministry wants to ban indoor vaping in bars and restaurants.

It is nonsense. Bars and restaurants should be able to set the rules that work for them and their patrons. But it gets rather more absurd.

If an area is even partially enclosed by a roof or overhead structure of any kind, whether temporary or permanent, the Ministry thinks that place should count as part of the Great Indoors.

A large umbrella could turn a picnic table into an indoor area subject to the ban.

If the point of Kiwibuild was to put roofs over people’s heads, the Ministry could have solved the government’s delivery problem pretty easily. Hand out large shade umbrellas, declare that everyone is now indoors, and the job’s done.

The fun continues.

Before the government stepped in to help, ex-smoking vapers helped other smokers shift to vaping. The Ministry proposes banning anyone without an NZQA qualification from providing that assistance. And it proposes banning dairies selling vapes from telling their customers anything at all about the products.

Finally, while parts of government try to ban plastic bottles, the Ministry proposes nicotine content limits guaranteed to result in a proliferation of tiny, more expensive vape bottles that are hard to dispose of safely. If a company runs a recycling scheme for waste vape cartridges or bottles, the Ministry – and I really wish I were kidding here – will ban them from listing the scheme on the product packaging.

Submissions on the proposed regulations close on Monday 15 March. If you’re as darkly amused by it all as I am, let the Ministry know what you think about it.

Read our submission to the Ministry of Health on the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 here.

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