Government legalises e-cigarettes in effort to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025
The Government has unveiled plans to make e-cigarettes legal, in a bid to claw back lost ground on the ambitious target to make New Zealand smokefree by 2025.
Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner has announced the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid will be made legal and will likely come into force late next year.
"Scientific evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes is still developing but there's a general consensus that vaping is much less harmful than smoking," she said.
"This is an opportunity to see if restricted access to e-cigarettes and e-liquid can help lower our smoking rates, reduce harm and save lives."
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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.
Wagner said the government was taking a "cautious approach" by aligning the regulations around vaping with those for cigarettes.
"This ensures cigarette smokers have access to a lower-risk alternative while we continue to discourage people from smoking or vaping in the first place."
New rules for all e-cigarettes, whether or not they contain nicotine, include:
- Restricting sales to those 18 years and over
- Prohibiting vaping in indoor workplaces and other areas where smoking is banned under the Smoke-free Environments Act
- Restricting advertising to limit the attraction of e-cigarettes to non-smokers, especially children and young people.
Wagner said the government is strongly committed to achieving the goal of a smokefree New Zealand by 2025.
The excise tax that applies to cigarettes would not be added on to e-cigarettes, and strict advertising rules would limit the exposure of the products to young people.
All retailers will be allowed to display e-cigarettes and e-liquid at the point-of-sale, however retailers that restricted entry to people aged 18 and over will be allowed to display e-cigarettes and e-liquid in-store, including in the window display, and promote products on the outside of their stores.
Restricted R18 stores were also allowed to offer discounts, free-samples, loyalty rewards and co-packaging. Public advertising on billboards, radio, TV and the internet will be prohibited.
While the sale has been and still is illegal, enforcement of the law has been almost non-existant. New Zealand's largest retailer of e-cigarettes, Cosmic, has welcomed the Government's announcement.
"We've been retailing e-cigarettes for five years now and it is great to have positive clarity around the legislation," said owner Mark Carswell.
"Unfortunately, from a public safety perspective, not all products are created equal, which is why our buyers ensure all liquids and devices sold by Cosmic are of the highest standard."
Tobacco giant Philip Morris has also welcomed the move.
General Manager Jason Erickson said: "It is clear that products that do not burn tobacco are significantly better than conventional cigarettes."
"Philip Morris is committed to working with government, public health experts and the community to switch smokers away from combustible cigarettes as quickly as possible."
A regulatory regime will also be established so the Ministry of Health can consider whether other emerging tobacco and nicotine-delivery products should be regulated as consumer products in future.
"Public consultation showed a strong appetite for change so the Government is looking to introduce an amendment to the Smoke-free Environments Act this year. The changes will likely come into force later in 2018," said Wagner.
Kiwis were already buying them online and importing directly for personal use, which was not illegal. It is legal for e-cigarettes that don't contain nicotine to be sold.
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.
A starter pack of e-cigarettes can cost around $40. Nicotine e-liquid can be ordered for about NZ$10 from overseas.
The cost of a pack of cigarettes has risen to more than $20 and heavy Government excise will see it rise to about $30 in the next four years.