Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Subsidise e-cigarettes to help smokers quit: Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox

Vaping e-cigarettes. Rob and Lia Haskett opened a vaping store called Naked Vapour Shop in Papamoa. Bay of Plenty Times Photograph by Andrew Warner
Vaping e-cigarettes. Rob and Lia Haskett opened a vaping store called Naked Vapour Shop in Papamoa. Bay of Plenty Times Photograph by Andrew Warner

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 e-cigarettes.

Making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025 is a key Maori Party goal and co-leader Marama Fox 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.

"If we are going to be taxing cigarettes so much that it is going to become a burden on people...then at the other end we need to be doing something that is incentivising people to shift away from tobacco and on to a harm-reduced product."

Users "vape" on an e-cigarette, inhaling its nicotine-containing vapour, in the way that smokers inhale the smoke of a tobacco cigarette, which contains nicotine plus many cancer-causing chemicals.

In England, e-cigarettes are the leading form of quit-smoking aid, used by 35 per cent of smokers trying to quit. However, some researchers argue that e-cigarettes risk providing a "gateway" into smoking for youth.

New Zealand's Ministry of Health has been monitoring evidence on the role of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, but currently says further studies are required to reach conclusive results.

Act leader David Seymour said, if the Government legalises e-cigarettes as planned, there was no need for taxpayers to subsidise vaping.

"However, anti-smoking campaigners should be concerned that the government will slap a fat excise tax on nicotine vaping. That's currently being considered. Let's resist the urge for a cash grab."

Around 546,000 Kiwis smoke daily, 15 per cent of the adult population. Every day on average, at least 13 people die from a smoking-related disease, around 5000 people a year. Half of smokers die from a smoking-related illness and on average their deaths will be 14 years earlier than if they didn't smoke.

- NZ Herald

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