Warnings about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a cessation tool, and the potential health risks of vaping have been criticised as putting the Government's Smokefree 2025 goal at risk.

This week the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ said there was no good evidence that using e-cigarettes reduced the incidence of smoking cigarettes, and that it feared the Ministry of Health was providing advice based on one side of the story when it came to e-cigarette use.

The comments followed a briefing from health officials in October this year to the incoming Government's MPs that vaping was a healthier, safer alternative to smoking, amid emerging evidence that it helped people to quit.

The briefing was part of a planned law change initiated by the previous Government, where new regulations around e-cigarettes would legalise their sale and set regulations around displays.


In its position paper the Ministry of Health said it believed that e-cigarettes had the potential to make a contribution to the Smokefree 2025 goal to reducing smoking prevalence to minimal levels.

"Expert opinion is that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking tobacco but not completely harmless," the Ministry said.

"A range of toxicants have been found in e-cigarette vapour including some cancer causing agents but, in general, at levels much lower than found in cigarette smoke or at levels that are unlikely to cause harm. Smokers switching to e-cigarettes are highly likely to reduce their health risks and for those around them."

Yesterday, Hāpai Te Hauora, a collaborative Maori Public Health service formed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua, Raukura Hauora o Tainui and Te Whānau o Waipareira in 1996, came out against the stance.

It said the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation could be putting the Smokefree 2025 goal at risk through their attempts to influence the new Government to turn their backs on a sensible, harm reduction approach to smoking cessation.

Hāpai Te Hauora national advisor Dr Lance O'Sullivan who saw the effects of smoking on a day to day basis as a GP in Kaitaia said if it was really as simple as just telling people to quit, a smokefree Aotearoa would have been achieved years ago.

"But the reality is that it's bloody hard to quit, and we have seen little change in Māori smoking rates. We need to open our minds to new approaches to eliminating tobacco harm, and the fact is e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco."

Personal experience

Vamps Vapours opened in Waipawa in June this year, and manager Mallory Randall, who had worked in vape shops since 2016, said she had seen thousands of people switch to vaping and give up smoking in that time.

"They now have more money, are happier and can go and do more stuff with their families."

A smoker of 22 years, and an asthma sufferer, Ms Randall said she started vaping two-and-a-half years ago.

"I had chronic asthma and was a heavy smoker.

"I would use the blue reliever for my asthma all day, every day, but a month into vaping I stopped using the inhaler."

She said she had tried everything to give up smoking until she found e-cigarettes, which finally helped her quit for good.

E-cigarettes one of the tools - DHB

Hawke's Bay DHB acting smokefree programme manager Johanna Wilson said that from January 1 next year the price of cigarettes and loose tobacco would go up 10 per cent as another scheduled tobacco tax increase took effect, and would continue to rise by 10 per cent for the next four years as part of the Government 2016 budget announcement.

"However, price alone won't stop smoking so we have to use new and innovative ways to reduce smoking rates, especially for Maori where rates haven't decreased at the same pace as non-Maori.

"E-cigarette use is increasing rapidly in New Zealand, a pattern seen in other countries, and it is one of the tools we use to help people quit smoking, as it's 95 per cent safer than continuing with cigarettes or tobacco."

The former Government signalled in March this year that it was planning to change the law to legalise the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquid, but no decision had been made yet.