Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa wants New Zealand to be 'vape-free'

A spokesperson for Jenny Salesa told Newshub after this article had been published that the minister "misspoke" when she said she wants New Zealand to be "vape-free". 

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa, who is set to introduce vaping legislation, wants New Zealand to not only be "smoke-free" but also "vape-free".

The minister said in Parliament that there is "evidence vaping is very effective, especially for adult smokers to switch from smoking to non-smoking". 

But she said it's the Government's intention to "ensure that we regulate vaping but also that we ensure that our young people are not attracted to vaping if they are not attracted to smoking". 

ACT leader David Seymour described Salesa's statement that she wants New Zealand to be vape-free a "stunning admission".

Seymour asked the minister in Parliament why she's concerned about vaping being a gateway to smoking, when she previously said in a statement in June there is "no evidence for this".  

Salesa made that statement when she launched a new website called 'vapingfacts' that provides "credible" information about vaping as a way to stop smoking. 

The minister said Cabinet has already agreed to prohibit vaping in smoke-free areas as a "precautionary measure", because "increasing visibility of vaping is something that we think would help normalise it". 

The Cancer Society is asking the Government to ban vape flavours that are attractive to children, and ensure all smoke-free areas are also vape free.

A recent survey conducted by the Cancer Society of 320 respondents in Auckland and Northland found that three-quarters had seen an increase in the number of students vaping in the past year. 

"We want to ensure that our young people, especially those who are now not smoking any more, do not actually take up vaping instead," Salesa said. 

"We know that nicotine is in vaping. It is an addictive substance. One of the reasons why we're introducing regulation to ensure we regulate vaping is to ensure that too many of our young people do not take up this new habit." 

National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse asked the minister if the Opposition could "work across bipartisan lines" to "get robust regulations in place for vaping". 

"Yes, absolutely," Salesa replied. "I thank the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the National Party, for wanting to work in a partnership way."

National leader Simon Bridges said earlier this month National would "work with the Government to give parents greater certainty with some urgency". 

Salesa said the Government will be introducing the legislation "soon". 

Salesa told Newshub last month the Government is considering banning most flavours of vape liquid and only allowing three flavours to be sold.

Seymour said he wants "sensible vaping regulation", including keeping flavours, advertising and other incentives. 

"Vaping, a much safer alternative to smoking, cannot be placed on a level playing field with cigarettes," he said. "The current approach has the potential to hook another generation on smoking."

The Cancer Society's author of the study, Candace Bagnall, said she "acknowledges that current evidence suggests vaping is less likely than smoking to cause cancer".

But she said e-cigarettes "do contain known carcinogens" at "relatively low levels".

"The problem is, there's not enough long-term data about these products to be confident about its safety."