Matthews on vaping

Philip Matthews has a long article on vaping in NZ:

Change is coming to this murky area. Health academic Marewa Glover praises Government minister Sam Lotu-Iiga for opening up a discussion on vaping in New Zealand. 

As Associate Minister of Health, Lotu-Iiga called for submissions on e-cigarettes. A Ministry of Health spokeswoman says that 250 submissions came in from interested parties, including retailers and users, and Lotu-Iiga will take recommendations to Cabinet by the end of 2016. 

Glover says it is likely that the Government will amend the Smoke-free Environments Act rather than create a new law for vaping. That strikes her as sensible. But from her position as associate professor of public health at Massey University, she is concerned that there is a level of ignorance or naivete even in the health sector. 

There are several big questions to tackle. Yes, nicotine products should be legal, Glover says, but where should they be sold? Retailers such as Cosmic hope to limit them to specialist vaping stores, which obviously suits their interests, but what about rural areas? Is Cosmic or the Auckland chain Shosha going to open outlets in small-town New Zealand?

The pharmacy-only model has been floated but what happens when big tobacco companies get into vaping, as they are starting to overseas? Will our pharmacies feel comfortable selling their products? 

Glover argues that when nicotine is legal, it should be sold everywhere that cigarettes are now. Dairies, gas stations. There could even be a legal requirement to stock vaping products alongside old-fashioned smokes. 

I can’t work out why you would make a product that is 95% less harmful than tobacco, harder to access. I wouldn’t make it compulsory to stock alongside tobacco, but it should be legal to sell in the same venues.

Next, the age issue. Vaping stores plaster R18 signs on their doors, observing the conventions of smoking law. But for Glover, this creates the wrong impression. We let 12-year-olds use nicotine patches and gum. To restrict vaping to adults will create an impression that it is as dangerous as smoking. 

Here I disagree. Vaping is not the same as a nicotine patch. I would not want to see under 18s vaping. I do recognise that some under 18s smoke, so perhaps you have an ability for a doctor to prescribe vaping for someone under 18 who is already a smoker?

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