Whanganui bans vaping in public places over health concerns

Jason Seath and Jessica Byron of Hawke's Bay Vapour demonstrate vaping. Seath says people are turning to it to quit smoking.

Jason Seath and Jessica Byron of Hawke's Bay Vapour demonstrate vaping. Seath says people are turning to it to quit smoking.

Whanganui's mayor is defending his council's move against vaping in public, arguing the practice is a health hazard.

The move to extend the council's smokefree policy to include vaping comes despite Government plans to legalise e-cigarettes as part of a strategy to help New Zealand go smokefree by 2025.

Vaping devices mimic smoked tobacco products, but produce a vapour that users inhale. They're viewed as an alternative to smoking, but critics say they can lead to people starting smoking.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall​ said  medical evidence and other factors led the council to its decision.

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The evidence showed people who vaped had a higher chance of oral cancers, he said.

"If you take anything hot into your mouth that vapourises, it's going to be affecting your mouth and, potentially, your lungs."

Whanganui District Council signed off its new smokefree policy last week.

People are now encouraged not to vape or smoke in Whanganui parks, reserves, sports grounds, playgrounds and various parts of the central business district.

Events and facilities run by the council are also smoke- and vape-free.

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Selling vaping products is illegal, but enforcement of the law has been almost non-existent.

Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner said in March the devices could help the country go smokefree by 2025. They're likely to be legal by the end of next year. 

McDouall, who said he had never been a smoker,  knew of young people who had taken up vaping only to move on to traditional cigarettes.

While  fewer people nationally were smoking, Whanganui was experiencing an increase in the number of people taking it up, he said.

"[Vaping] is normalising the idea of inhaling something hot."

The fact vaping products were promoted with flavours  such as strawberry and cherry ripe was further reason to go vape-free, he said.

Someone demonstrated vaping in the council chamber before the vote on the policy, and this solidified McDouall's thinking. "She could hardly speak for some time after vaping," he said.

Hawke's Bay Vapour Palmerston North store manager Jason Seath said he was confused to hear people were going from vaping to smoking.

"We generally see it the other way around. People are getting into this to give up smoking."

He was resigned to a smoking-fuelled death before he took up vaping.

​"I smoked for 20 years. I had a 70-gram packet of tobacco, a packet of cigarettes, plus whatever I stole from the wife, every week.

"After three days of vaping I stopped smoking."

He had since become a big advocate for vaping, getting lots of his friends off cigarettes in the process.

Vaping gave an instant hit of nicotine, which put it in a league of its own when compared to standard smoking cessation methods  such as slow-release patches, he said.

Evidence he had seen showed vaping was 95 per cent safer than smoking.

Seath was supportive of some parts of the policy though,  such as discouraging people from smoking or vaping 4 metres from entrances and exits of all public buildings in public areas.

"We do throw off some big clouds, and there are a lot of vapers who are not very courteous.

"People just need to watch where the vapour is heading.

"Not everyone wants to be smelling what you are doing."

Julie Beckett from MidCentral District Health Board's public health unit  said she had not heard of young people going from vaping to smoking, but there were concerns it could happen.

"Vaping could normalise smoking for many reasons... the behaviours are the same, and children may think people are smoking, role-modelling this type of behaviour to children." 

 - Stuff


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