The Government are looking into making the sale and supply of e-cigarettes legal.
A consultation document was released on Tuesday for the public to consider how selling e-cigarettes containing nicotine should be legalised.
Kiwis were already buying them online and importing directly for personal use, said Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, as it was not illegal to use them. He said this would only be done "with appropriate controls".
E-cigarettes are electrical devices that mimic smoked tobacco products but produce a vapour (rather than smoke) which the users inhale (called "vaping"). Liquid for the device can come with or without nicotine, in a variety of flavours.
The Ministry of Health says there is "emerging evidence that e‑cigarette use may substantially reduce the burden of disease caused by smoking". The sale of e-cigarettes would be restricted to people aged 18 years and over, would prevent e-cigarettes being advertised, and ban their use in smoke-free areas, according to the proposals. "We also have to consider various quality and safety issues which may pose health risks to users and non-users," Lotu-Iiga said. "Ensuring e-liquids are sold in child proof containers to prevent accidental poisoning is one obvious safety measure." "E-cigarettes are relatively new and evolving products. There is scientific consensus that they are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes."
Labour's health spokesperson Annette King said the proposal was a "sensible move". "They will not be making them available and legal without advice, and I have said for some time that it can be another tool to help reduce consumption of tobacco." Smokers needed "as many tools as possible" to help them quit, along with mechanisms such as nicotine patches and gum. "The argument has been that there will be people that would take up e-cigarettes and start smoking e-cigarettes, well I don't know the evidence that people would actually do that."
About 4,500 to 5000 Kiwis die every year because of tobacco use, according to the Ministry of Health. The sale of tobacco products in New Zealand is in decline, but there are still high rates of use among Maori and Pacific people and young adults.
The consultation closes on 12 September 2016.
2 August 2016
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