2021 is shaping up to be the most critical year to achieving a smokefree country. However, it will take a lot of determination to deliver on a national ambition that’s already 10 years old, says a leading New Zealand tobacco harm reduction advocate.
“Smokefree 2025 is sadly unlikely to be achieved, but all is not lost. The Government’s draft smokefree action plan will be released for public consultation in the coming months and it’s a priority workstream for new Associate Health Minster Dr Ayesha Verrall,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
Ms Loucas says everyone involved in tobacco harm reduction will need to be actively involved in shaping up the action plan.
“If New Zealand is going to become smokefree, the right incentives and interventions will need to be rolled out. If we don’t take some very bold measures, we won’t be smokefree for nearly two more decades and Maori won’t be for another four decades! That’s totally unacceptable,” she says.
Last year Parliament passed the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020. Companies cannot now advertise vaping products and flavour sales are set to be restricted for general retailers from August.
Ms Loucas says the Government is also consulting with the vaping industry on key regulations this year, and that work must dovetail into the country’s smokefree action plan.
“Vaping is the most effective smoking cessation tool we’ve ever had, and it has been critical to our declining smoking rate. With that in mind, the Government should tread carefully with its proposed regulations. By making vaping less visible and less attractive for smokers by limiting the likes of flavours will only hamper the country’s smokefree goal,” she says.
AVCA’s Parliamentary petition on vaping flavours, which over 17,000 Kiwis signed, was referred to the Health Select Committee last year. Nancy Loucas has since been invited to make a supplementary submission to the Health Select Committee.
“2021 provides an enormous opportunity to get the country’s smokefree ambition back on track. There’s a smokefree action plan to confirm, vaping regulations to get right, and a new Health Select Committee to engage. It’s a key year,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA was formed in 2016 by vapers across New Zealand wanting their voices heard in local and central government. All members are former smokers who promote vaping to help smokers quit – a much less harmful alternative to combustible tobacco products. AVCA does not have any affiliation or vested interest in industry – tobacco, pharmaceutical and/or the local vaping manufacturing or retail sectors.