The sale and supply of e-cigarettes could be made legal in this country under a new government proposal.
In consultation papers released today, the Health Ministry says current laws are confusing and not being enforced.
E-cigarettes are devices that mimic smoking but produce vapour instead, which was inhaled in a process known as vaping.
Currently e-cigarettes containing nicotine can be imported for personal use, but it is illegal to supply, sell or give them away.
Under proposed changes to the Smokefree Environments Act, the sale and supply of e-cigarettes to children and those under-18 would be prohibited, along with their advertising and use in smokefree areas.
Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga said e-cigarettes were relatively new and evolving products, and there was scientific consensus they were less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.
Massey University associate professor of public health Marewa Glover said it was the right step.
"It's estimated to be at least 95 percent safer than smoking tobacco, so it is a harm reduction approach.
"It is about shifting people from this very, very harmful smoking of tobacco, and - for those who want to - to switch to vaping nicotine."
Consultation opens today with submissions closing on 12 September.