A planned vaping ban in Hamilton's CBD has drawn the attention of the chairman of Action for Smokefree (ASH) 2025, Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole, who says the ban will cause more harm than good.
At last month's community and environmental services committee meeting, city councillors voted to reduce smoking and vaping in public places.
However, the decision was met with reaction from Hamiltonians commenting on social media, including outrage from those who said that e-cigarettes were being to used to help quit smoking.
Prof Beaglehole of Auckland University said that there is no conclusive answer that second-hand vaping causes any harm.
"There is no evidence of harm from secondhand vaping, no evidence that vaping causes people to begin smoking, and increasing evidence that it is safer than smoking and increases successful quitting of tobacco," he told Hamilton News.
"Public policy should be based on good evidence. One councillor — Ryan Hamilton — suggests he is supporting the ban because "vaping looks terrible".
"It is alarming that this would be a basis for influencing the behaviour of Hamilton residents," Prof Beaglehole says.
"To support a ban on vaping because of appearance is a dangerous precedent. Not only does it deny Hamilton's smokers freedom to use much safer alternates, but it also shows little regard for evidence based public policy."
He said that almost all vapers are ex-smokers, or smokers trying to quit.
"More people now quit smoking with e-cigarettes than almost any other method. At a fraction of the harm from smoking, well considered and ethical vaping policies have the potential to reduce of premature illness and deaths in Waikato."
"A smokefree council is a great idea, but don't treat vaping like tobacco.
"Including vaping in an outdoor smoking ban is unjustified. Denying people the chance to use safer alternates and confining vapers to designated smoking areas will push them back to tobacco and keep Hamilton addicted to smoking."
The response on social media was mixed, with comments on to Hamilton News offering support for and against the ban.
"Vaping is something smokers are using to stop smoking," Lindsey Burgess said. "It's far better than cigarettes. What an ignorant and arrogant proposal."
However, Aaron Woolley said he was "absolutely sick of being at events in Garden Place and parks and gardens and people huff massive puffs over you".
ASH describes itself as a leading independent campaign voice for high quality tobacco control measures. Its priority is reaching the Smokefree 2025 goal where less than 5 per cent of all New Zealanders smoke.
ASH's focus is on the political leadership needed to achieve this.