Reactions to the NZ government’s announcement to change laws to legalise the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes were, surprisingly, mixed. Citizens expressed concern over the prospect of minors or non-smokers potentially getting hooked into the habit. Others, specifically habitual smokers, see this as an opportunity to replace tobacco gradually with less-harmful alternatives.
Despite the lack of a clear scientific evidence of the e-cigarette’s health-friendliness, the government pushed ahead with its decision to legalise the sale, according to Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner.
Ms. Wagner estimates that vaping (referring to e-cigarettes and vaporisers producing vapour rather than smoke) is about 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking. Restrictions on advertising and selling to people below 18 will still be in place. Anti-smoking campaigns already see an increase in people interested in giving up smoking, looking to buy e-cigarette starter kits instead.
In England, 35% of smokers trying to quit actually see e-cigarettes as the best quit-smoking option. Ms. Wagner even adds that the government might consider subsidizing e-cigarettes as a stop-smoking aid if it gains approval from the Medicines Act. Online store Easy Puff enjoys a spike in interest regarding its e-cigarette and vape products, seeing as they are also cheaper alternatives.
Other benefits include e-cigarettes’ variable nicotine levels, which people can use to ease their nicotine addiction off slowly. Moreover, tobacco excise duties do not apply to the product, making cigarettes still the more expensive option. This incentivizes more people to go tobacco-free and buy e-cigarettes instead.
The availability and recently, the legality of e-cigarettes are encouraging signs of a more health-conscious society. The National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service praised the ministry’s move as a “positive step in tobacco harm reduction.” Despite advertising restrictions limiting exposure to non-smokers and children, retailers can display e-cigarette and vape devices at the point-of-sale.
An estimated 546,000 Kiwis smoke on a daily basis, comprising 15% of the adult population. On average, about 5,000 people die from smoking-related diseases.