Spotlight on sale of e-cigarettes

e-cigaretteE-cigarettes and the controversial sale thereof have been in the spotlight recently.

Attention was drawn to them when e-cigarette adverts were broadcast on Auckland’s Rock FM, only to have End Smoking New Zealand associate professor, Marewa Glover, state that the adverts will “fall on disappointed lungs as NZ law prohibits the sale of nicotine for electronic cigarettes”.

“Some of the newer electronic vaping products with nicotine can help people to stop smoking,” she said. “But without nicotine and without guidance as to which products are effective for quitting, NZ smokers will be left out in the cold smoking tobacco.”

Currently, under New Zealand law: it is illegal to sell electronic cigarettes containing nicotine; e-cigarettes looking like a cigarette or tobacco product can be used without nicotine and can be sold to people over 18; it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes with or without nicotine that is claimed to help smokers quit; use of e-cigarettes is not covered by smokefree law, so vaping in bars and other workplaces is not illegal; and e-cigarette users can legally import nicotine for personal use.

Nine researchers from Otago University and Auckland University have written in the public health expert blog, adding their voice to the debate by urging government to consider restricting sales of nicotine electronic cigarettes to pharmacies as many NZ retailers ignore the ban on e-cigarette retail.

The researchers’ least restrictive option is to have e-cigarettes sold only in pharmacies, possibly also requiring a doctor’s prescription. Another proposal is to ban vaping anywhere smoking is banned, such as indoors at most workplaces.

At the more restrictive end is the option to make state medicines buyer Pharmac the sole supplier of e-cigarettes and other “alternative nicotine delivery systems”, and enforcing the ministry’s current ban.

Opponents are of the opinion that battery powered e-cigarettes produce a vapour containing nicotine and that while nicotine inhalation carries some health risks, these are far less than from inhaling the many harmful components of tobacco smoke.

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