20 Nov 2021

Harmful ingredients lurking in vape products - study

3:51 pm on 20 November 2021

The largest New Zealand study into vape products showed harmful bacteria, substances and chemicals are lurking in them.

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File photo. Photo: 123rf

A health advocacy group says it shows regulation of the sector has come too late.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) analysed 150 products. The study found almost all contained ethanol, and more than half had at least 10 per cent more or less nicotine than indicated on packaging. One contained bacteria usually found in the mouth.

ESR pharmaceutical programme team leader Jared Doncliff said the research was filling a significant knowledge gap.

"Vaping products are marketed in such a way as to suggest these products are healthy, evidenced by just how many vape products are fruit flavoured. But there are clear discrepancies between ingredients listed on product labels and what we detected in the lab.

"Regardless of people's views on vaping, New Zealanders deserve accurate information about what's in the products they choose to use. In the case of vape liquid, it's clear there's a way to go in terms of accurate information."

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation chief executive Letitia O'Dwyer said regulation of vaping products will only come into force in February and in the meantime consumers have not known their contents.

"The real concern is, what is going in there? We don't know. Have the regulations come soon enough? No they haven't," she said.

"If you think about how robust we are with organisations like Pharmac and Medsafe and the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration] and here we are allowing these products to come under the harm reduction-smoking cessation principle and we don't even know what's in them. No other product we would have allowed like this."

The statistics did not bear out claims of vapes helping as a harm reduction tool, either in smoking cessation nor the number of young people vaping, she said.

"We need to really be careful now about this whole harm reduction tagline and certainly the rates of people quitting using vapes, you would have expected this to have a big impact by now and it hasn't. Where is the evidence that this actually works as a smoking cessation product? There isn't evidence out there that going into a store and buying these products works.

"There's certainly evidence overseas that talks about what has been found in them - formaldehyde, all sorts of different products that can actually go into these - it just seems a very crazy system."

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