Beware 'heat not burn' tobacco devices, e-cigarette seller warns Ministry of Health

CHRIS MCKEEN/Stuff.co.nz

E-cigarette retailer Cosmic has warned the Government to beware of "heat not burn" tobacco devices.

The Ministry of Health is considering how to regulate e-cigarettes, which are electronic devices that deliver nicotine to the user without the harmful smoke.

But Christchurch-based Cosmic has used its submission on the proposed regulations to warn the ministry to be wary of a new kind of tobacco device developed by "Big Tobacco" as the giant international tobacco companies are collectively known.

Josef Nolan gave up smoking with the help of "vaping", the use of electronic cigarette devices.
CHRIS MCKEEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Josef Nolan gave up smoking with the help of "vaping", the use of electronic cigarette devices.

Cosmic has written to the ministry calling for devices that "heat not burn" tobacco to be more tightly controlled than the e-cigarettes it sells, which deliver nicotine-laced water vapor free of the known carcinogens in tobacco.

READ MORE: Health lobby v Big Tobacco: Behind the scenes battle for future of e-cigarettes

"Tobacco companies have launched products such as Marlboro's 'HeatStick' and RJ Reynolds' 'Revo' which feature loose leaf tobacco inside heating devices," Cosmic's submission to the regulations consultation said. "These should be strictly classified as tobacco products and should not be mistakenly grouped with e-cigarettes and e-liquid."

Using e-cigarettes can produce a sturprising amount of vapour, but it isn't smoke.
CHRIS MCKEEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Using e-cigarettes can produce a sturprising amount of vapour, but it isn't smoke.

Cosmic's Nell Rice said: "I know Big Tobacco are beginning to push these in the United States and Japan."

She said e-cigarettes that deliver nicotine in a water vapour could deliver huge health gains, as well as being a far less costly habit.

"Heat not burn" devices don't appear to offer the same health gains.

On a risk scale of exposure to "toxicants" on British American Tobacco's (BAT) website tobacco heating products are rated as lower exposure that conventional cigarettes, but still higher than vapour-producing e-cigarettes.

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BAT said its aim was to offer consumers a choice of a range of different products, from traditional cigarettes through to less risky alternatives. "These new products offer us another opportunity to further grow our business, while also having the potential to reduce smoking-related disease because they are less risky than normal cigarettes," it said.

Rice is an ex-smoker who switched to vaping two years' ago. She's been tracking the number of cigarettes she hasn't smoked since then using a mobile phone app. It's just told her she's successfully not smoked 10,000 cigarettes since she quit.

Like other e-cigarette retailers, Cosmic is worried the government may regulate e-cigarettes too harshly, for example banning their advertising and display, which could slow their uptake by smokers keen to switch to a healthier way of getting their nicotine fix.

It has supplied the ministry with a Public Health England study which found most of the chemicals that cause smoking-related disease are absent from e-cigarette vapour.

It also found widespread ignorance among the British public of how e-cigarettes worked, which is one of the reasons why Cosmic opposes an advertising and display ban.

"Our experience is also that the public is unaware that, unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or 'vapes' don't involve any burning or combustion," Public Health England said. "Instead they heat liquid to the point where it 'vaporises'. Because of this, 'vaping' is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking." 

Cosmic is in favour of a British-style system where the sale of e-cigarettes is limited to specially-licensed retailers, which would mean shops like dairies and supermarkets, which sell harmful conventional cigarettes, couldn't stock them without a licence.

E-cigarette sales are booming in New Zealand with growth of around 60 per cent a year.

Cosmic also told the ministry: "Regulations should be reviewed on an annual basis, as these technologies evolve very quickly."

 - Stuff

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