COMMENT: By Ben Pryor

It's great the Government has announced it's committed to amending the 1990 Smoke-free Environments Act. This follows Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa submitting a paper to Cabinet in November titled "Supporting smokers to switch to significantly less harmful alternatives."

The Cabinet paper makes clear the main intentions of any legislative changes would be "to improve smokers' access to quality vaping and smokeless tobacco products, while protecting children and young people" as well as "improving publicly available information on vaping".

With an eye on achieving Smoke Free 2025, the Government is also keen to improve the regulation around the products and industry. This is something our Kiwi-owned vaping companies have been advocating for over five years. Ultimately such improvements will only give smokers a better chance of quitting.

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Currently we employ over 60 people, have a factory and laboratory, a distribution centre, seven shops, and a busy online business. We hope to employ 100 people by the end of this year, but it hasn't been easy trying to second guess our business position and what we can say in marketing.

With "big tobacco" now bringing their vaping and e-cigarette products into New Zealand, we had little choice but to roll out the country's first ever vaping television commercials recently. Inevitably, the Advertising Standards Authority received two or three complaints by people largely concerned as to whether we could even advertise in the first place.

This confirmed to us the urgent need for greater clarification around vaping, distinguishing the considerably safer practice from the dangers of smoking.

Yes, many vapers are absorbing nicotine which is of course addictive, but nicotine itself has never been found to be carcinogenic. Hence vaping can never be equated to smoking or treated the same.

In fact vaping has proven to be at least 95 per cent less harmful than conventional cigarettes according to significant overseas studies. While just recently the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published research confirming vaping is nearly twice as effective as other nicotine-replacement products for smokers wanting to quit.

Like the Government, our company's key ambition is to help create a smoke-free New Zealand where our country is free from cigarettes and tobacco by 2025. However, if New Zealand is to even get close to achieving such a goal, vaping and e-cigarette products must not only be readily available but be more accepted as a much healthier alternative.

Over the holiday period public health organisation Hapai Te Hauora urged the high number of Māori women who smoke to vape as an effective way to quit. Health pressure group ASH, Quitline New Zealand, and the Ministry of Health all openly acknowledge the health and economic benefits of smokers transitioning to vaping.

Greater clarity on vaping's manufacturing, availability, promotion and health advantages will give more Kiwis the confidence to transition off cigarettes.

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As well as restricting indoor vaping, we also support the introduction of strict manufacturing standards. Currently there are too many Kiwis consuming e-liquids which are not tested or regulated.

We look forward to seeing the Government's proposed changes and improved regulation in place. However we urge legislators to also keep in mind well-intended New Zealand vaping businesses like ours.

Kiwis need to be able to compete against the biggest and most aggressive international companies in the world.

Ben Pryor is a founder and director of VAPO and Alt New Zealand.