New Zealand is at a crossroads regarding vaping rights, if a new bill is passed it could be a much needed boost for worldwide vaping. But if it fails it’ll set a precedent that only helps Big Tobacco
In New Zealand, a bill has recently been proposed to Parliament concerning the legality of vaping in regards to their SFEA or Smoke-Free Environments Act. Recent lawsuits have set a precedent that “Heet” products, which warm tobacco for consumption, as opposed to burning, are not illegal under the act, as they are smokeless. This brought back to attention mods and pens style vaporizers, which are also defined as smokeless. Up to this point, the government has not acknowledged the lowered health risks of most vaporizers and also failed to support smokers in switching to these harm reduction tools. As a result, the growing consensus among the vaping community is that they have a lack of trust for the government when it comes to their rights.
Issues In Schools
It’s been brought up a few times in the past few years that the New Zealand government had intentions of making vaping legal in the past, but that notion had seemingly slipped out of the discussion. That was until this new bill, introduced by Health Minister Nicky Wagner, was proposed. The potential amendment to the SFEA has brought the smokeless device conversation back to the forefront. The bill would not only legalize the sale and distribution of vapes, e-cigs, and e-liquids, but also make the government acknowledge the lowered risks of vaping compared with smoking. This would allow government-run services that aim to help smokers quit, to suggest and support vaping as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. What’s better is that it represents a significant change to their current stance on the matter.
Until this sort of bill is passed, the government’s Stop Smoking group is unable to suggest or support vaping as a cessation tool since the products are technically illegal. As a result, vapers who have reaped the benefits of switching themselves have stepped up to help. Vapers from across New Zealand have been forming support groups both online and in person, to help guide each other in their quest. The intention of these groups is to informally teach smokers about the benefits and the how to’s of vaping.
Many of these vapers currently feel upset that their government isn’t supporting them. Not only that, but their current policies and stances skew the public view of these very useful tools. Professor Marewa Glover of Massey University’s College of Health said “There was quite a bit of anger about the way vapers had been treated and that inaccurate claims that vaping was dangerous was leading to bans on vaping. The vapers said they had to quickly learn how to lobby local Councils and MPs.”
A recent lawsuit against Philip Morris over their Heet products was dismissed because of the technicality that these products are legal under the SFEA, written in 1990. This judicial precedent, along with the support groups and public interest in vaping only emphasizes the need for modern reform to this the Smoke-Free Environment Act. The current legislation is archaic and simply prohibits the government from supporting vaping as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. Glover says about the case that “His (The Judge’s) ruling could equally apply to nicotine vaping products, meaning they can be legally imported and sold in New Zealand. Of greater significance, he concluded that the Ministry of Health’s prosecution, which sought to restrict smokers’ access to an alternative less harmful product was the ‘opposite of what Parliament sought to achieve when passing the SFEA.’”
If the proposed amendment to the current legislation passes through parliament then not only will it make access to these tools more widespread in New Zealand, but it would help set further precedents worldwide. So far only a handful of countries have supported vaping on a federal level. The possibility of the government encouraging smokers to switch to vaping as a cessation tool would be a victory for vapers worldwide and a boon to public health. It would also do leaps and bounds for the public opinion and acceptance of these products, easing the stigma and making it easier to switch. Not only that but if the bill is not passed, it will set a precedent that “Heet” products from Big Tobacco companies like Philip Morris are legal, while independent small businesses will be forced to shut down. Ultimately, if we want to see a world in which smoking no longer is the leading cause of preventable death and disease, we must support the best tools we have.
Should different smokeless products be treated differently? How do you think New Zealand should move forward on vaping? Do you think government intervention would help you quit smoking with 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.