Vaping debate a 'triumph over misinformation'
Health advocates are welcoming plans to make the sale of e-cigarettes legal, though concerns remain they could endanger the Government's goal of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025.
It's currently legal to import e-cigarettes for personal use, but illegal to sell them if they contain nicotine.
"The proposal is to make the sale and supply of all e-cigarettes lawful in New Zealand with appropriate controls," Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said on Tuesday.
Massey University's Associate Professor Marewa Glover, chair of lobbyist group End Smoking, says it's a step in the right direction.
"He has listened with compassion to smokers and vapers," says Dr Glover. "We are so relieved that our pragmatic nature as a country has triumphed over the negative misinformation and unfounded fears that have dominated the debate for too long."
There will be public consultation over the next few months, and Mr Lotu-Iiga hopes to make a recommendation to Cabinet by the end of the year.
"It's worth doing, it's got to be an option," he told Paul Henry on Wednesday morning. "We've still got high smoking rates, particularly amongst Maori, particularly amongst Pacific, pregnant women. We've got to look at all the options available to us."
Up for discussion is how to tax e-cigarettes, whether advertising should be banned and where they're displayed and sold. Get it right and they'll be an effective smoking cessation device, says Mr Lotu-Iiga; get it wrong, and it may encourage non-smokers to start vaping.
"What we know is that the science around… is that they are less harmful than tobacco and cigarettes."
He's not sure yet whether vaping counts as smoking, in terms of New Zealand being smoke-free by 2025.
"It's a bit early to say."
End Smoking says vaping's "95 percent safer than smoking tobacco", so doesn't want "overly restrictive or costly regulation and controls" on e-cigarettes.
"However, some concerns such as restricting sales to minors will be wise to prevent retailers who currently sell tobacco to minors pushing e-cigarette products on to kids," says Dr Glover.