22 May 2023

Asthma Foundation calls for NZ to follow Australia in banning disposable vapes

12:45 pm on 22 May 2023
Closeup detail of Female with an Electronic Cigarette, Horizontal shot

File photo. Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ chief executive Letitia Harding said New Zealand should also look at a prescription-only model. Photo: 123RF

Asthma and lung health organisations on both sides of the Tasman are pushing for a ban on disposable vaping products in Aotearoa.

Australia's crackdown on vaping products announced this month included a ban on all single-use disposable vapes.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ has joined the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) and the Lung Foundation Australia in calling for a prohibition in New Zealand.

"These are the ones that are very attractive to youth, the harm that they cause, the dependency on nicotine that they cause - there's no reason to have these available," Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ chief executive Letitia Harding told Morning Report.

Vapes may benefit current cigarette smokers who wanted to quit, though the published evidence was "limited", Harding said, and the foundation was not pushing for an all-out ban.

Under the new rules in Australia, vapes will only be sold in pharmacies and in "pharmaceutical-like" packaging, with certain flavours, colours and other ingredients banned, and the concentration and volume of nicotine reduced. Non-prescription vapes will be banned from importation, and the federal government will work with states and territories to close down the sale of vapes in retail settings.

Harding said New Zealand should also look at a prescription-only model.

The foundation heard from some smokers that vapes helped them quit but the evidence showed to people needed wrap-around support to give up.

"So a prescription model makes sense because you're seeing your health professional ... they're helping you give up smoking.

"But I think we also then have to get people off the vaping products. We find that, those current smokers, around 63 percent are actually dual smoking and vaping."

Nicotine levels in all products should be capped at 20 milligrams, which was enough to help a smoker give up, she said.

"Across the board we're allowing 50 milligrams of nicotine in our vaping products in New Zealand and it's too high."

Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall recently sought consultation on regulatory measures to make vaping less attractive to young people, such as changing the names of flavours, and ensuring vape shops could not set up near schools.

She expected to introduce some changes to the Smoked Tobacco Regulatory Regime soon, but something on the scale of Australia's crackdown would take much longer.

Verrall said the steps New Zealand had taken to restrict tobacco availability were exactly why vapes needed to be available to smokers trying to quit. But she admitted the right balance had not been struck between what vaping was intended for, and what was actually happening.

TSANZ President Professor Anne Holland explains that recent evidence from Australia suggests that heavy restriction of e-cigarette products, including disposables, would not be a roadblock to e-cigarette users successfully quitting.

"Disposables have no proven therapeutic value, are rarely used for smoking cessation efforts, and even less so by the main groups who want to give up nicotine forever."

Vaping had negative impacts on the lungs, made users more susceptible to infections and exacerbated respiratory problems, Harding said.

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