Vaping better than smoking, Ministry of Health tells MPs

An e-cigarette.
An e-cigarette. Photo credit: File

Vaping is a far healthier alternative to smoking, health officials have told MPs.

It is much safer than smoking, and there is emerging evidence it helps people quit, the Ministry of Health said during a briefing at Parliament on Wednesday.

Data has shown the risks of second-hand vapour are small because of low levels of toxicants compared to smoking. There's also evidence vapour doesn't kill as many cells as cigarette smoke, the Ministry said.

Health officials recommended banning vaping in areas where you currently can't smoke.

The briefing was part of a planned law change initiated by the previous Government. New regulations around e-cigarettes would legalise their sale and set regulations around displays.

The Government hasn't decided whether the proposed changes will get its backing.  

Hon Jenny Salesa, Associate Minister of Health, was given the tobacco delegation two weeks ago. She says she hasn't made any decisions on the proposed law change to legalise the sale of e-cigarettes.

While it's acknowledged worldwide that the relative harm of vaping is much lower than smoking, e-cigarettes are not 100 percent safe, the officials warned. People are still taking in substances that may cause risk to their health in years to come.

Māori and Pacific people are more likely to smoke than Pākehā. Vaping could be a tool to help reduce these inequalities, the Ministry of Health said.

While vaping is not as enjoyable as smoking, the officials said, there is "emerging evidence they do help people quit".

Massey University professor of public health Marewa Glover told Newshub in November she believes the upfront cost of vaping remains a barrier for reducing inequalities and said subsidising the initial cost for those trying to quit could help.

One of the challenges in developing the law will be allowing vaping products enough visibility to encourage smokers to select them over cigarettes without encouraging young people to take it up.

While young people may experiment with use of e-cigarettes, UK data shows regular use among young people is less than 0.5% percent.