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Expert smokefree submissions deliver answers

“We are relying heavily on MPs to read and act on the valuable submissions to Parliament’s Health Select Committee which provide expert and practical solutions to help New Zealand achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill limits the number of retailers able to sell smoked tobacco products, aims to make tobacco products less appealing and addictive, and prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or after.

The submission by ASH (Action for Smokefree Aotearoa 2025) on the latest smokefree bill was co-prepared by ASH Chair Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole. It describes the current limits on general retailers to sell only tobacco, mint, and menthol closed vape systems as counterproductive, flawed, and harmful.

Following New Zealand’s 2020 vaping legislation, general retailers such as supermarkets, service stations and convenience stores have only been permitted to sell three flavours, while specialist vape stores can sell a full range.

ASH proposes that an additional two or more fruit flavours be permitted for sale in general retailers, believing it would ensure former smokers, and those quitting, had access to popular flavours that help them stop smoking.

‘There is good evidence that use of fruit and other sweet-flavoured e-liquids is positively related to smokers’ transition away from cigarettes… International evidence from four countries concluded those using sweet flavours were 1.6 times more likely to stay smokefree, whereas menthol flavour users were less likely to stay smokefree,’ writes ASH.

Nancy Loucas: “I’m pleased ASH has raised the flavour restrictions because they’re simply not working and are only delivering perverse outcomes. The arrival of many more ‘specialist vape stores literally inside or tacked onto convenience stores and manned by untrained staff is an unintended consequence of the flavour ban in general retail. It needs to be urgently addressed.”

Another submitter on the smokefree bill, Marewa Glover PhD, has called on MPs to ‘mitigate barriers to vaping’. Professor Glover is a leading indigenous expert on tobacco control in the world.

‘I oppose the neo-prohibitionist proposals in the bill. There are compassionate and more cost-effective ways to reduce smoking prevalence. One of these is to encourage switching to a low-risk alternative… The use of e-cigarettes (vaping) has been found to be more effective than nicotine replacement therapy in enabling people to quit smoking,” writes Professor Glover.

She notes that the Government, via its Health Promotion Agency, began its Vape2Quit Strong campaign in March 2021. That campaign, she believes, needs ongoing funding and optimisation and be given a chance to have an effect.

London-based internationally renowned Tobacco Harm Reduction advocate, Clive Bates, also submitted on New Zealand’s bill to limit the availability and appeal of smoking.

He writes: ‘In my view, it would be better to focus policy and fiscal measures, supportive communications, and healthcare practice on maximising the opportunity for smokers to switch to non-combustible alternatives to smoked products – i.e. vape products, heated and smokeless tobacco, and oral nicotine products such as pouches.’Nancy Loucas: “AVCA supports the overall intent of the bill, but for New Zealand to become and stay smokefree, a viable, cost-effective, and harm reduced alternative needs to be elevated. That alternative is nicotine vaping. If MPs are serious about achieving Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, they need to take heed of the practical, evidence-based solutions now before them.”

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