The sale of e-cigarettes in New Zealand will become legal under a Government proposal.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga has released a consultation document that includes the proposed change to the product's legal status.

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

Other countries, like the UK, allow the e-cigarettes or vaporisers to be sold in supermarkets and dairies.


"Currently the sale and supply of e-cigarettes containing nicotine is prohibited in New Zealand. However people are buying them online and importing directly for personal use," Lotu-Iiga said.

"The proposal is to make the sale and supply of all e-cigarettes lawful in New Zealand with appropriate controls."

Those controls would include an R18 limit, and a ban on e-cigarette advertisements.

The products would not be allowed to be used in smoke-free areas, and safety measures including child-proof containers will be considered.

"E-cigarettes are relatively new and evolving products. There is scientific consensus that they are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes," Lotu-Iiga said.

Submissions on the proposals close on September 12.

The move comes after some tobacco researchers have urged the removal of restrictions on buying e-cigarettes containing nicotine. However, there are fears young people could use the devices.

In May, Lotu-Iiga announced plain packaging for tobacco products, which is likely to be in place early next year.


And a pack of 20 cigarettes will increase from about $20 now to around $30 in 2020 after hefty excise increases were announced as part of May's Budget.

The tax on tobacco will rise by 10 per cent on January 1 each year for the next four years.
That is expected to bring in an extra $425 million in tax over that period.

It will affect the about 15 per cent of adult New Zealanders who smoke each day -- about 550,000 people.

That rate increases to 35 per cent for Maori, and 22 per cent for Pacific people.

The tax hikes are part of measures designed to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025, a key goal of the Maori Party.