A proposal to make the sale and supply of e-cigarettes legal could provide benefits to those looking at quitting smoking, according to one Rotorua GP.
Dr Harry Pert of Ranolf Medical Centre said he believed the proposal by the Government to look at making the sale and supply of the e-cigarettes legal was a good move.
A consultation document was released this week for the public to consider how selling e-cigarettes containing nicotine should be legalised. People are already buying them online for personal use and it was not illegal to use them, according to Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga.
Dr Pert said there was emerging evidence e-cigarettes were a useful took in helping people stop smoking.
He said those using them should do so with a view to stopping smoking completely.
Combined with other smoking cessation methods such as advice from a doctor or nurse, or Quitline, they were a "useful part of the tool kit".
"Evidence suggests they are about 95 per cent safer than cigarettes."
Dr Pert said the e-cigarettes didn't contain carbon monoxide or tar, but they did contain nicotine.
"They haven't been around long enough for us to know how safe they are. There is always a bit of a caution around new products."
Dr Pert said he believed there would be a lot of interest around e-cigarettes worldwide over the next few years.
In his view it was unlikely people who weren't smokers would take up e-cigarettes.
"There is very little evidence of that happening. There doesn't seem to be many non-smokers taking up vaping but there is growing evidence smokers find it useful [to help them quit]."
Lakes District Health Board assistant communications officer Shan Tapsell said the health board awaited the outcome of the consultation process.
Maori Party co-leader and Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell was supportive of methods which helped to reduce the number of people who smoked, but said there needed to be research into the effects of e-cigarettes.
"E-cigarettes that contain nicotine are still harmful and addictive, and that's something we need to consider."
Tipu Opa executive manager Raewyn Bourne said Manaaki Ora Trust supported all evidence-based methods to reduce tobacco dependency and exposure to harm caused by smoking.
"At this stage we will not be actively encouraging our clients to use e-cigarettes to support quit smoking attempts."
Manaaki Ora Trust offers stop smoking services to clients in the Lakes DHB catchment area (Rotorua, Taupo and Turangi).
Submissions on the consultation document, released by the Ministry of Health, close September 12.