Tobacco giant Philip Morris' attempt to target poor Kiwis 'absolutely not' okay - Jenny Salesa

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa has lashed out at tobacco giant Philip Morris' attempts to target poor Kiwis.

Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) says it has been approached twice by Philip Morris under the guise of helping people quit cigarettes and instead move to vaping.

Salesa told The AM Show vaping may be less harmful than smoking, but that kind of behaviour isn't okay.

"Absolutely not and this is one of the main reasons why I'm introducing legislation to regulate the vaping industry."

She explained the goal for the country was to be smokefree, and it should only be seen as a tool to help people quit, nothing more.

"The ideal for us is to be actually smokefree and to be vape free,

"We know that there is scientific consensus that vaping is much less harmful however what we're saying in terms of Government is vaping is only for adults and only for adults who have made a decision that that would like to stop smoking."

Philip Morris told Newshub it was trying to provide a cheaper, less harmful alternative to traditional tobacco.

"The poorest in our country are disproportionately affected by the cost of smoking and simply forcing them to pay more and more tax on cigarettes is a simplistic approach to a complex problem.  Our belief is all smokers deserve access to better alternatives, regardless of wealth."

Vaping is currently unregulated, but that is expected to change soon. Salesa said there will be moves on legislation within the next few weeks.

"The legislation that I'm bringing through in the next few weeks will actually make sure that all of the advertising that is allowed at the moment for vaping, it will no longer be allowed in the very near future. 

"The things that tobacco companies are not allowed to do, which is promoting their products via TV, promoting their products via social media and advertising that will no longer be able to be allowed here."