The leading New Zealand tobacco harm reduction advocacy organisation is telling the government’s smokefree supporters to get vape regulation right and is asking vapers to get involved and have their say on the Ministry of Health’s latest draft vaping regulations. Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA) says forging the correct approach on vaping is “absolutely critical”.
AVCA co-director Nancy Loucas said: “Regulations are necessary, but they need to be proportionate. Restricting the choices, access, and visibility of vaping – which is a much safer option for smokers – will only add harm. Hence, we are urging the Ministry of Health to tread with caution.”
Last year Parliament passed the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020, and the public consultation will close on 15 March. AVCA is concerned about matters under consideration such as the display of vaping products in retail stores and on websites.
“The display of vaping products should not be restricted the same as tobacco products. They are not the same, nor should they be treated the same. The fact is, we do not have a youth vaping epidemic in this country, and we won’t have one if we continue to treat safer nicotine products as adult products rather than taboo,” Ms Loucas added.
On the use of harm reduction statements, AVCA says it does not support limiting information about vaping products in retail premises and on retailers’ websites to written authorised statements from the government. It is also keen to ensure its advocacy work as a health education charity continues, saying the importance of community and peer support is key in getting Kiwis to quit smoking via vaping.
The government is looking to restrict oral communications and support to be carried out by a “suitably qualified health worker” or under their supervision. This effectively means de facto ban on advocacy from organisations such as AVCA yet the organisation believes its peer support efforts, “have been the driving engine behind the rise of vaping among former smokers.”
Ms Loucas says she thinks consumers and advocates have much more understanding of the situation than a “suitably qualified health worker” who may not have made the same journey to become smokefree with vape.
“Frankly, it smacks of medicalisation via the backdoor, as well as restricts freedom of speech. It is quite disheartening that the Vaping Regulatory Authority does not recognise the work of the community itself in providing support and information to smokers and mentoring them through their journey to smokefree.
“I am hoping this is an oversight on their part, as they have not consulted with the community on this regulation until this point. We trust they will see the error of these restrictions when reviewing all the feedback.”
AVCA is also taking the opportunity to oppose the proposed flavour restrictions, set to come into effect in August for general retailers who will be permitted to sell just three (menthol, mint, and tobacco).
Loucas continued: “Rural and provincial towns not serviced by a specialist vape shop are disproportionately punished by the flavour restrictions proposed for general retailers, so there should be an exemption in this case.
“Shortly the Government will release its draft smokefree action plan, but alongside that it’s absolutely critical we get these vaping regulations right. It’s hard enough for people to quit cigarettes. Let’s not make it any harder.”