The New Zealand Vaping Alliance believes that a seismic shift is occurring in New Zealand as a significant number of smokers look to e-cigarettes as a way to reduce health risks associated with cigarette smoking.
NZVA believes that existing legislation covering e-cigarettes is inadequate for these products. We believe that the evidence is increasingly showing that e-cigarettes have an important role in harm reduction and as a result, public health benefits.
NZVA believes that regulators should look at introducing a separate regulatory framework including age restrictions and product standards for e-cigarettes and e-liquid products that meet appropriate standards.
The following information is based on a draft Ministry of Health document, ‘How healthcare workers may want to respond to questions from patients about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)’ that was recently posted on Twitter as a result of a request for information under the Official Information Act.
NZVA is greatly encouraged by this Ministry document, and although only a ‘draft’, it certainly represents significant movement from the Ministry on e-cigarettes, and in our view should be supported.
It is on this basis that NZVA believes New Zealanders should be aware of this Q&A information. It is presented here in full.
Q: Are there health benefits in switching from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes?
A: The expert opinion is that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking tobacco[], and there is some evidence to show that using e-cigarettes in place of smoking tobacco cigarettes is a good choice. Stopping smoking reduces the risk of many illnesses.
Q: Why are e-cigarettes not available like nicotine gum, lozenges and patches?
A: Nicotine gum, lozenges and patches are medicines, which have been assessed and approved by
Medsafe for sale to help people stop smoking. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes could, if they wanted, apply to Medsafe for an assessment of their e-cigarettes as medicines, but they have not so far.
Q: I’ve heard that toxic substances have been found in the e-cigarette vapour. Is this true?
A: A number of toxicants have been found in e-cigarette vapour. However, when e-cigarettes are used within normal operating levels (e.g. not overheated), these toxicants are at very low levels, many times less than tobacco smoke .
Q: Is second hand vapour dangerous?
A: There is no current evidence that second hand vapour is dangerous. However, you should be respectful when using e-cigarettes around others. Some studies have found traces of toxicants in second hand vapour but at such low levels they do not pose a health risk. Second hand tobacco smoke on the other hand is associated with an increased risk to health.
Q: Can I use e-cigarettes in places where I cannot smoke?
A: There is currently no legislation around this. Some organisations do not allow vaping (the use of e-cigarette) in their places (e.g. on aeroplanes, in hospitals); be respectful and ask first.
Q: Is it OK to smoke and vape at the same time?
A: There is no current evidence to suggest that smoking cigarettes and vaping at the same time increase health risks. However, the greatest health benefits are seen when people stop smoking completely, so this should be the goal. Some people manage to switch completely to vaping quickly, whilst others take a little time. You may have to try a number of different e-cigarettes and e-liquids before you find the one that enables you to stop smoking completely.
Q: Can I buy e-cigarettes in New Zealand?
A: It is not illegal to sell e-cigarettes in New Zealand. Nicotine solutions or e-cigarettes containing nicotine are illegal in New Zealand, you can purchase nicotine-containing e-cigarettes from overseas websites for your own personal use to stop smoking.
In light of significant public health support for these products, NZVA believes New Zealand smokers should be able to purchase in-store e-cigarettes containing nicotine liquid.
Q: Which e-cigarette should I start with?
A: This is very much a personal choice. The refillable tank system electronic cigarettes generally deliver more nicotine than the e-cigarettes that look like cigarettes.
Q: How do I choose a flavour?
A: This is again a personal choice. Many people start with tobacco flavour, or menthol flavour if you smoke menthol cigarettes. People usually try a few different flavours until they find the one that suits them.
Q: Does the Ministry of Health recommend e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid?
A: The Ministry does not consider the evidence strong enough to recommend e-cigarettes as cessation aids[]. Until more conclusive evidence is available, the Ministry’s advice to people is to use approved stop smoking medicines such as gum, patches and lozenges or bupropion, nortriptyline and varenicline. The chances of quitting are greater is you use these medicines in combination with support available from the Quitline or local smoking cessation service. No e-cigarette has yet been approved as a stop smoking medicine.