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Government proposes to legalise the sale and supply of e-cigarettes

  1. aemetha
    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


  1. aemetha
    A starter pack on e-cigarettes: what you should know

    It will soon become legal to sell and supply electronic cigarettes containing nicotine.
    Of course, the Government want the "appropriate controls" in place – this would mean restricting use to adults only, not allowing advertising and banning them in smokefree areas.

    The public are encouraged to submit feedback on what should happen when the sale and supply is legalised. We take you through some common questions...

    Hang on, aren't they already legal?

    It's legal for e-cigarettes to be sold that don't contain nicotine. But the ones that do contain nicotine are still illegal. A lot of Kiwis import the products for personal use but they're not allowed to on-sell or give them away to others.

    But I'm sure I've seen them sold at my local dairy...

    Well, some retailers sell them under the counter which makes them fairly easy to get your hands on. It doesn't help that enforcement is pretty non-existent.

    A Wellington man who spoke to Stuff said he simply made his own and gave it freely to his friends. He warned people not to buy nicotine from Asian countries as the quality was dubious – he ordered his from the United States as it was FDA-approved. Although he witnessed some going back to smoking if they had problems with their device, "it was a bit like getting back with your ex-girlfriend" and eventually "you get over it". It's illegal to make any "therapeutic" claims about e-cigarettes.

    Companies can apply to Medsafe to get their devices approved to help people quit smoking – but so far none have been approved.

    Are e-cigarettes bad for my health?

    If you're a tobacco smoker, this is going to be much better for you. So in terms of a health policy, the general view is that it is a better way for smokers to get their nicotine fix. However, it's unknown what the long-term effects of the vapour are or whether it's an "effective tool" to help smokers quit.

    A health report out of England, where there's a huge amount of vaping going on, said e-cigarettes were about 95 per cent less harmful than smoking. It also said there was no evidence that e-cigarettes act are a gateway into smoking for children or non-smokers, which has been another argument against legalising the product.

    Action on Smoking and Health NZ director Stephanie Erick said e-cigarettes are "no silver bullet". She supported the legal sale of them, but said they must be used with other tools and have restrictions placed on them since there was just not enough research to consolidate the benefits.

    This all seems like a no-brainer. What are the pitfalls here?

    According to an paper published by Otago University health experts, e-cigarettes could have "adverse effects". Smokers could find it hard to come off e-cigarettes or lead them to relapse. This could lead to "dual use" instead of outright quitting. "Furthermore, the novelty of e-cigarettes may be attractive to youth and to curious non-smoking adults." One of the authors, Otago University public health department co-head Richard Edwards, said he was "on the fence" about e-cigarettes, but he was in favour of them being used with other smoking cessation tools. Unfortunately there was no long-term evidence to bend the professor in favour or opposition.

    The Government's proposal didn't address one of the options that his research had canvassed – restricting the product to only be sold at pharmacies so there would be proper support and advice on use. At the moment it seemed e-cigarettes could be sold at any corner store and dairy, just as they are in the US and the UK.

    The cost of e-cigarettes vs tobacco

    An average pack of cigarettes is around $20. Bear in mind the tobacco tax is tipped to increase by 10 per cent each year to 2020. A starter pack of e-cigarettes can cost around $40. Nicotine e-liquid can be ordered for around $10 (NZD) from overseas. It's a little near impossible to work out how many cigarettes are in a millilitre, but some vaping sites say a pack of cigarettes is equivalent to approximately 2ml of e-liquid. Therefore, e-cigarettes are cheaper. However, remember around 75 per cent of a tobacco packet is taxed.

    At the moment there's nothing in the proposal about taxing e-cigarettes, and ACT leader David Seymour wants it kept that way. "There's currently a strong financial incentive for smokers to switch to vaping. Taxing e-cigarettes would discourage smokers from switching from a harmful product to a relatively safe one."

    Where can you get them?

    Former legal-high shops and some dairies sell the devices and non-nicotine liquids.

    Cosmic, a New Zealand chain of stores, sell e-cigarette packs that can range between $40 to $220, and they have eight stores around the country. Cosmic's Wellington store manager said they were becoming increasingly popular but there was still a lot of "ignorance" around them.

    You can also find plenty of nicotine and nicotine-free packs online.

    3 August 2016
    Photo: AP
  2. aemetha
    Finding a path through the smoke

    It looks like smoking, feels like smoking but some say it could help people kick their smoking habit if it becomes legal.
    Phil Peachey is smoking a new electronic cigarette which mimics smoked tobacco but instead heats a flavoured liquid vapour which is inhaled. Smoking from a e-cigarette is commonly called vaping. While Peachey is inhaling a nicotene-free, flavoured vapour, the government is debating if it will legalise allowing nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, to be added to vapour to combat smoking rates.

    The Ministry of Health said, "The risks and benefits of e‑cigarettes are uncertain but there is emerging evidence that e‑cigarette use may substantially reduce the burden of disease caused by smoking". Consultation submissions on the topic are being requested by the ministry.

    Peachey works at The Black Shed in Taupo with his father 'Dr Ed' and said he has seen people kick the habit using the new product. "We have had a lot of customers tell us they have been able to give up cigarettes using an epi-pen (e-cigarette)," Dr Ed said. "It certainly helps come off the habit as it works on that reflex of smoking and inhaling something."

    The primary ingredient in vapour liquid is propylene glycol along with vegetable glycerin and a flavouring. "Flavours can be natural or artificial depending on which flavour you like," Dr Ed said. As well as helping kick the habit Dr Ed said allowing wholesalers to supply nicotine products will be safer. "At present someone could add nicotine to some products but that is a dangerous process and shouldn't be attempted," Dr Ed said. "A drop of nicotine on your finger can poison you and if it gets in your eye you can go blind."

    5 August 2016
  3. aemetha
    Tobacco industry to benefit from new vaping proposals

    Why are tobacco giants welcoming the Government proposal on electronic cigarettes? Because they stand to benefit.
    For the past decade the tobacco industry have been buying up e-cigarette manufacturers and suppliers and investing heavily in developing these product lines.

    The three dominant tobacco players in New Zealand - Imperial, British American Tobacco, and Philip Morris - all have e-cigarette subsidiaries under their parent companies. All going to plan, nicotine-vapours will be part of New Zealand's health policy to help Kiwis quit smoking. The Government are just trying to figure out how it would work. Perhaps this is the dawn of Big Tobacco being the 'good guys' for once - but experts are not so sure.

    Imperial Tobacco are "certainly wanting to assist" in "shaping good, solid and sound regulations", says its corporate affairs manager Louise Evans McDonald. "We are very supportive of adults having the right to choose a product," she said. Imperial bought e-cigarette brand Blu in 2014, after member company Fontem Ventures bought Dragonite in 2013 for $75m. However, the corporation has never applied to Medsafe to have its products available to those that want to quit smoking. It's been waiting on the Government to take a "lead steer" on regulations, Evans McDonald said. At this stage, Imperial was just focused on selling tobacco in New Zealand. It made a 50 percent jump in profit from sales of $553m for the year ending September 2015.


    It's "unlikely" the tobacco industry are just wanting to be ethically responsible with their investments, says Otago University pubic health co-head Richard Edwards. They're really getting "a big slice" of the consumer pie by investing in a market that's grown exponentially in the past few years, he said. "It may mean it's a way for them to get more influence over governments, and policy and so on, by appearing to be not so bad after all." Take a look at the track record of the industry's court actions, he said, such as trying to prevent graphic health warnings in Uruguay, and losing the argument to prevent plain packaging in the UK. "They're still trying to prevent effective policies to reduce the harm caused by smoking. So that's why I don't think there's any evidence that the tobacco industry has changed its spots."


    When asked if tobacco companies stand to benefit from the Government proposal, Associate Minister of Health Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga responded: "It is not a proposal to regulate who is involved in the provision of e-cigarettes." The proposal would treat e-cigarettes in a "similar fashion" to tobacco regulations, "which tobacco companies already operate within", he said. He had not had discussions yet with the tobacco industry on the issue.

    Philip Morris, known for the Marlboro and Chesterfield cigarette brands, welcomed the consultation announced by the Government, said New Zealand general manager Jason Erickson. He pointed out that advances in vaping technology was "transforming the tobacco industry". Philip Morris International teamed up with Altria to market e-cigarettes in 2013, selling these exclusively outside the US. In 2014, it bought Nicocigs to enter the UK market.


    In 2013, British American Tobacco was the first international company to launch an e-cigarette (called 'Vype') in the UK. Its website says it will continue to invest "substantially" in the research, development and commercialisation of a pipeline of products. They also plan to launch Vype in other markets. It also says it was the first company to have a nicotine product licensed as a "medicine" - their nicotine inhaler. "If we are successful in developing and bringing to market a range of products that meet the needs of adult smokers seeking less risky alternatives to cigarettes, this will help to meet the objectives of a number of leading public health professionals. "And of course it will also make commercial business sense to us and our shareholders."

    Statistics about vapers in New Zealand are hard to come by because the nicotine products are illegal to sell. However, in the UK and US there are already a high rate of users. It's estimated that 2.8million adults in the UK are vapers, according to Action on Smoking and Health, correlating with a decrease in smokers. However two thirds of vapers were still smokers. American vapers are counted as high as 10 per cent of the US adults, according to a Reuters poll last year.

    British American Tobacco was contacted for comment on the Government's proposal, but have not responded in time for this article.

    6 August 2016
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