It was an announcement met with bemusement by some.

The Government announced this week it will change the law to legalise the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes. Products will be legally sold at some point next year.

Yet many stores around the country have been openly selling the products for some time, without fear of prosecution. Some of those using the products were even unaware they were illegal.

So for that reason alone the move to legalise them makes sense. No point them being illegal if there is no enforcement against those selling or buying them.


But it also seems to be a good move for the health of the nation. Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner said the change came despite the fact scientific evidence of the safety of e-cigarettes was still developing.

"Around the world we can't get clear research about this. But what we're thinking is they are about 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes," she said.

So, provided they are "thinking" correctly, encouraging smokers to switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes can only be a good thing. The hope would be it helps smokers give up completely, using the e-cigarettes as an interim step.

Concerns have been raised about advertising and marketing of the products potentially hooking young people in.

But Ms Wagner says there will be restrictions on advertising, and sales will be restricted to those 18 and over. Young people these days are also more aware than ever of the health risks of smoking. One would hope they are not as naive and easily-seduced by the perceived allure of cigarettes as generations before them.

There will be no tobacco excise duties on the product, meaning cigarettes will remain significantly more expensive than e-cigarettes. Again, that may act as an incentive to make the switch.

Ms Wagner said if an e-cigarette got approved as a stop-smoking medicine under the Medicines Act the Government may even consider subsidising it. While I am all for the change that, in my view, may be a step too far.