Vapers pushed out in the cold

Insights Newsletter
30 November, 2018

In the old days, quitting smoking was apparently a miserable affair.

So miserable, in fact, that even when faced with the prospect of ‘quit smoking or die’, too many smokers tragically fell into the latter category.

For many now ex-smokers, vaping has been a game-changer. Vaping has helped tens of thousands of New Zealanders quit smoking. And for many, the process has been thoroughly enjoyable.

But all that might change if the Government’s proposals for vaping regulation move ahead.

Last Friday, Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa announced a range of proposals for regulating vaping and smokeless alternatives. The proposals include banning vaping in bars, restaurants and workplaces; restricting colours and flavours of e-liquids that might attract children; and severely limiting advertising just like for tobacco.

The proposals are heavy handed and unnecessary.

Pushing vapers outside in the wind and rain along with the smokers sends the false message that vaping is as dangerous as smoking. Vaping is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking. Even the Cabinet Paper for the proposals admitted there is no robust evidence of the risks of second-hand vapour, but claimed vaping should not be ‘normalised’.

Workplaces and hospitality venues should be able to define their own vaping policies based on the needs of their employees and customers.

We’ve come a long way, baby, if the Government is worried about quitting smoking being normalised.

Restricting colours and flavours just because they might attract children is also disappointing. Is it better to force vapers to maintain a taste for tobacco, even though many adult vapers would prefer not to?

There is no such thing as ‘kid colours’ or ‘kid flavours’. Some adults may prefer the flavours of candyfloss, fruit and chocolate milkshakes to those of tobacco, brussels sprouts and quinoa.

Many of the Government’s proposals are based on the idea that children need to be protected from taking up vaping. But rather than take away many of the positive aspects that attract smokers to vaping in the first place, Government only needs to enforce one regulation: prohibit sales to minors.

Perhaps those calling for strict vaping regulations really do see the world in beige and grey.

To some people, the sight of construction workers puffing clouds of candyfloss may be a mild nuisance.

But for those committed to tobacco harm reduction, they see empowered ex-smokers doing something overwhelmingly positive for their health and their families.

All power to them, and may their voices be heard in the public consultation of these proposals.

The New Zealand Initiative’s report, Smoke and Vapour: The Changing World of Tobacco Harm Reduction, recommended against many of the regulations the Government is proposing.

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