Jenny Salesa backtracks on 'vape-free' New Zealand remark, says she 'misspoke'

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa is backtracking on a remark she made in Parliament when she said she wants New Zealand to be both "smoke-free" and "vape-free". 

A spokesperson for the minister told Newshub on Friday Salesa "misspoke". 

The minister's spokesperson said the Government's position is that vaping is not harmless, but it can help smokers to quit.

"Vaping products will still be available for those who wish to transition from smoking, while the Government ensures they aren't being marketed or sold to children or young people."

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

ACT leader David 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 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. 

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

But National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said in a statement on Friday that the Government has "thumbed its nose at National's offer to cooperate on a regulatory regime". 

"Jenny Salesa told Parliament yesterday that she welcomed National's input, but only after any potential legislation went to select committee," he said. 

"This is the opposite of constructiveness. Worse than that, there's no indication the Government will make progress on its own any time soon."

He said National's offer is "still on the table", and is "willing to work constructively to ensure we're striking the right balance". 

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