EDITORIAL: A move to get steamed up about
EDITORIAL: Five years ago the Government declared an aspirational pipe dream – a tobacco-free New Zealand by 2025.
Nine years out and the idea remains on the back-burner, though one idea currently gathering steam could give the target a substantial nudge.
The Government is currently gathering feedback on a proposal to legalise electronic cigarettes.
Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga hopes to take a plan on "vaping" to Cabinet before the end of this year.
While most e-cigarettes mix contain nicotine, the vapour they produce has few of the harmful tars and chemicals found in tobacco smoke.
Vaping is fast emerging as a trendy, cheaper and less harmful alternative to smoking, blamed for the deaths of up to 5000 Kiwis a year.
Its greatest value is as a crutch, allowing addicted smokers to ultimately give up nicotine.
There are still mixed signals from health authorities on vaping and a lack of robust, long-term research around a comparatively new activity. However, there is widespread agreement that it is significantly less dangerous than smoking.
It is currently illegal to sell the nicotine for e-cigarettes in New Zealand. However, it is clear that people are importing it, ostensibly for personal use, but also to sell on the black market.
One Nelson couple who switched from tobacco to vaping three months ago say they are saving $100 a week and have not been tempted to smoke again.
They source their nicotine illegally from within New Zealand, and have tried a range of "juice" flavours such as banoffee pie, strawberries and cream, and "smurfs' blood".
Legalising the industry would allow the Government to set controls, such as R18 sales, and could bring greater oversight of the ingredients used in them.
It could also bring a black-market product into the tax net and allow rules around advertising and point-of-sale marketing.
The challenge is to treat vaping as a health tool for addicted smokers, while also damping down attempts to glamorise it.
Based on current information and with appropriate rules, the move to legalise is the right one. It defies logic to allow sales of a killer product while banning a much safer substitute.
- The Marlborough Express