Maori Party calls for e-cigarettes to be subsidised

The Herald reports:

Smokers needing help to quit can get a subsidy for nicotine patches, gum or lozenges that can save them hundreds of dollars.

But the Maori Party thinks the Government should look at extending that subsidy to .

Making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025 is a key Maori Party goal and co-leader has been outspoken on the issue, calling an Imperial Tobacco spokesman a “peddler of death, destruction and misery” in a television interview last year.

Plain packaging for tobacco is on the way and the Government has carried out consultation on its proposal to legalise the sale of e-cigarettes in New Zealand.

Currently, nicotine patches and gum can be bought, but nicotine e-cigarette liquid must be bought from overseas.

A decision on legalising e-cigarettes is expected in the first half of this year.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox acknowledged the jury was still out on potential harm and benefits from “vaping” e-cigarettes, and New Zealand research and studies should be supported.

If evidence backed the product’s use, then the Government should subsidise vaping as a tool to help quit smoking.

“What we also have is statistics that show vaping is harm-reducing, not cancer-causing. We also have statistics that show vaping is a good cessation tool, that move people off cancer-causing combustible cigarettes onto something that, while it’s still addictive because it has nicotine in it, doesn’t cause smoking-related illnesses and isn’t a burden on the system.

Marama Fox is right that vaping or e-cigarettes are a reduced harm product. Public Health England estimated they are 95% less harmful than cigarettes. This doesn’t mean they are harmless, just greatly reduced harm.

I don’t think the Government should subsidise them. I just think they shouldn’t tax them, and make them as easy to purchase as normal cigarettes.

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