Tighter controls on electronic cigarettes - including a minimum purchasing age of 21 and fears "vaping" could encourage people to start smoking - are among submissions to Parliament's health select committee.

With Government preparing to change the law and regulate e-cigarettes, the Ministry of Health has released an analysis of submissions - 250 pieces of feedback from individuals, health experts and organisations, including international tobacco companies - on how the issue should be handled in this country.

While the Ministry said public release of the actual submissions might still be months away - documents which would reveal the specific desires of tobacco companies and how they have tried to lobby law makers - the lid has been lifted on "key themes" Parliament will need to decide on.

According to the Ministry, changes to the law "will likely happen from the middle of 2018 at the earliest."


Debate over age limits, safety standards, whether to ban vaping in smokefree areas and a strong opposition to tax are among the issues identified by the Ministry, with some submitters calling for an age threshold three years higher than on tobacco products.

"Themes that emerged included that e-cigarettes should not be sold to anyone under 21 years old, manufacturers should set age restrictions, and monitoring of use by young people is needed," the report said.

Many submitters supported their views by giving personal stories about using e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking tobacco. However, some submitters argued the complete opposite, citing concern "that e-cigarette use may be a pathway to smoking."

It is currently illegal to sell an e-cigarette (with or without nicotine) while making a therapeutic claim - such as claims to help smokers quit - unless the product has been approved for that purpose by Medsafe.

In addition, products that look like a tobacco product or smoking pipe and can be used to simulate smoking cannot be sold to a person under 18, even if they do not contain nicotine.

People are allowed to import up to three months' supply of nicotine-containing products for their own use, but cannot sell or supply these products to anyone else.

Vaping in smokefree places is not prohibited by the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990. However, individual organisations can ban the use of e-cigarettes as part of their own smokefree policies.

Two Herald on Sunday journalists, Russell Blackstock and Matthew Theunissen, said vaping had helped them stop smoking tobacco and didn't support tobacco-style duty.


"They have been very effective for helping myself and others I know to break the habit of smoking. Why make things even more difficult for those who want to stop by taxing these products," Blackstock said.

Both also said though that while they weren't using tobacco anymore, they felt a level of addiction to vaping instead.

"I am undoubtedly addicted to e-cigarettes," Theunissen said, who noted vaping saw him stop smoking within the space of a week. "I enjoy experimenting with the different flavours and devices available, particularly as e-cigarette technology continues to evolve and improve.

"I tried to quit countless times using patches, nicotine gum and also just going cold turkey, but I never lasted more than a month."

Advertising is also a key issue of contention in the submissions, including whether there needs to be a law that controls advertising of e-cigarettes in the same way tobacco promotion is regulated.

"Of the 213 submitters who answered this question, 53 per cent agreed that it was important to restrict advertising in the same way as tobacco," the report said,


Other themes that emerged on advertising included "there should be no restrictions on advertising, including display, of e-cigarettes in stores."

Government announced it intended to legalise nicotine e-cigarettes last month. Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner announcing the change comes despite the fact scientific evidence of the safety of e-cigarettes is still developing.

The Ministry said the Government had requested further analysis.

"Cabinet has requested the Ministry consult with the vaping industry, technical experts and other stakeholders in the development of regulations around advertising, detailed requirements for e-cigarettes and e-liquid product safety and establish a new regulatory authority to administer the regulatory scheme," said Jane Chambers, the Ministry's tobacco control programme manager.

"This work has commenced and it is expected we will be reporting back to Cabinet by the end of 2017."

The Government has adopted a "Smokefree 2025" goal, aimed at reducing smoking and tobacco availability to minimal levels, making New Zealand essentially a smokefree nation by 2025.