New Zealand is currently working to change their regulations on vaping, but are they ultimately making things worse?
The fight over how to handle vaping regulations is going on all across the globe. While some places, such as the UK, have gotten on board almost immediately, others have taken very cautious and strict stances. When these questions were first being brought to the forefront, there was a lack of long-term evidence indicating the relative risk. Unfortunately, years of evidence that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking hasn’t been enough in many places. That being said, several influential places have taken a hard look at the evidence and began to change their opinion on the potential of vaping.
One such place is none other than New Zealand, who has been distancing themselves from Australia over the last few years in regards to vaping regulations. So while Australia remains staunch in their belief that vaporizers should be incredibly hard to obtain, New Zealand has begun to acknowledge all of the harm reduction and smoking cessation benefits provided. But we’re not in the clear yet, as their latest announcement suggests despite their acknowledgment of their differences, they still plan to regulate vaping much in the same way as tobacco.
It was all the way back in March of last year New Zealand first made it clear they wanted to explore different regulatory policies on the vaping industry. Nicky Wagner, Associate Health Minister, made it clear that they were looking into legalizing e-cigarettes. They indicated this was primarily because the evidence we have clearly shows vaping is the lower risk option. This announcement was made official earlier this year when Minister Wagner laid out their “cautious approach” on implementing vaping into smoking cessation programs.
According to the release, they want to ensure cigarette smokers have access to lower risk alternatives that are effective without increasing the number of non-smokers who vape. It was also mentioned that this policy update was a fantastic opportunity for the legislators to understand how legitimization of vaping affects the smoking rate. According to Wagner, “This is an opportunity to see if restricted access to e-cigarettes and e-liquid can help lower our smoking rates, reduce harm and save lives. The Government is strongly committed to achieving our goal of a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025.”
Reality Of The Situation
After both of these game-changing announcements, New Zealand went quiet on the topic for quite a while. In fact, earlier this year a few local governments stepped in to question why the feds hadn’t moved faster to change policy. These people got their wish last week, when Health Minister, Jenny Salesa announced a new plan for vaping regulations had been finalized. She believes these new policies will give smokers the access they need, while still keeping vapes out of the hands of minors. Unfortunately for the vaping community, the actual policy changes don’t live up to what vapers may have hoped. In fact, the proposed changes would have vaping regulated by nearly the same set of rules as tobacco.
This development has already been criticized by many in the public health community, including Hapai Te Hauora, a Maori Public Health organization. The Tobacco Control General Manager of Hapai Te Hauora, Mihi Blair, had this to say, “I’m concerned that these regulations will limit smokers’ access to vapes and fruity flavors which research and communities tell us are an appealing draw card towards vapes when transitioning from cigarettes.” The concern over the impact of treating vaping the same as smoking is nothing new, but somehow it seems to continually go unnoticed.
This sort of battle is a preview of what we have in store across the globe. As we gain more evidence on the risks and benefits of vaping, it’s only natural lawmakers will have to decide where the line is when it comes to equating vaping with smoking. Long after the dust settles on if vaping is a viable harm reduction and smoking cessation tool, we will still be debating how to best walk the line between accessibility for adult smokers while not encouraging non-smoking teens to pick them up.
Figuring out this balance is vital, but it’s clear the legislators in New Zealand are focused on the wrong things. They want to have their cake and eat it too, that is being seen as a country who supports vaping devices, while still regulating vaporizers as if they were cigarettes. This was a golden opportunity for them to lead the pack on admitting their mistakes and moving forward with solutions. Instead, they seem to have acknowledged their mistakes without doing anything to remedy the situation. Only time will tell what ultimately happens in New Zealand, but regardless it will likely be a preview of what the rest of us have coming on the horizon.
What do you think about New Zealand’s new policy? Do you think they’re doing enough, what else should they do? What’s the best way to improve the public perception of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.