Hamilton City Council has performed a U-turn on its Smokefree policy to now include vaping, following in the footsteps of Matamata-Piako District Council which has banned vaping on the Hauraki Rail Trail, as well as on council property.
Twelve months ago Hamilton City Council did not include vaping as part of its smokefree policy with the majority of councillors asking for more information to be brought back to the new council and for them to make a decision on vaping in public spaces.
This time the council unanimously supported a vaping ban, after hearing that vaping is causing children to smoke.
However, within an hour of the ban being approved by the council committee, a Kiwi vaping business has slammed the council's move.
"For the past 18 months Hamilton has been put up in lights as a progressive and smart city when it came to protecting its community from the dangers of tobacco all while enabling ex-smokers to publicly use a considerably less harmful alternative without being stigmatised," said owner of Vapo and Alt New Zealand Jonathan Devery.
"Sadly, that progress is now all in the rubbish bin. The Hamilton City Council's latest amends to its Smokefree Outdoor Areas Policy was supposedly because of 'new information' coming to light. However, it didn't offer anything substantial, let alone new."
Mr Devery said despite what the Waikato DHB and Cancer Society may have presented to councillors in June, including the council report's claim that 'harm caused from second-hand vaping cannot be ruled out', Public Health England has categorically concluded 'to date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to the health of bystanders'.
"What's more, Auckland University researchers reported earlier this year that there is no youth vaping epidemic among our mid-teenagers. It seems that Hamilton City councillors have also completely overlooked the fact that vaping is the most effective smoking cessation tool in New Zealand's history, hence why our smoking rates are at record low levels."
Global evidence proves vaping is at least 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes and is nearly twice as effective for those wanting to give up smoking than nicotine-replacement products.
"While smoking-related illnesses kill 5000 Kiwis every year, there have been no reported deaths related to vaping, let alone hospitalisations, in New Zealand. However, Hamilton, in its wisdom, is now treating deadly smoking and our lead smoking cessation tool exactly the same. It makes no sense whatsoever. I suspect it's probably because they kind of look the same, but in reality, they're polar opposite."
Those views were not shared by the Hamilton City Councillors, who did not hold back in their debate saying that vaping at schools and health concerns were their main reason for banning the product in smoke free areas.
Councillor Ryan Hamilton, who was in support of banning vaping last year, said that schools were pleading for more help when it came down to students vaping.
"The St Pauls headmaster that said regrettably while vaping may have been packaged as a life saving panacea for adult cigarette smokers, for schools it is just the latest in the long line of distractions for students and their education," Hamilton said.
"This is a signal to our community in terms of social and culture aspects we do not encourage this behaviour and what was lobbied as a smoking sensation tool has just become further seducements to gateway smoking."
Councillor Ewan Wilson said the vape ban was common sense.
"There is a lot of clear evidence that just the process of vaping can cause irreversible lung damage and young people and all age people in the United States and Europe it is now clinically clear that the act of vaping can kill in some patients," Wilson said.
"Vaping itself is incredibly dangerous and just simply the act, start Googling the damage it causes to the lungs."
Councillor Sarah Thomson said vaping had gotten away from council in terms of regulation.
"It has come incredibly accessible for our youth and I am concerned to hear that it is not only becoming normalised and seen as cool but also leading to more smoking rates in among our youth," Thomson said.
"I would also be keen to have a further conversation to how we can extend this policy to more places in our CBD."
Councillor Maxine van Oosten said it was clear that a case is being built to argue that vaping is just as harmful as smoking.
"There are addictive substances which are included in those wonderful flavours and that's why the nicotine is in there, to hook people," Van Oosten said.
"It is becoming very clear to me that vaping is risky and it is very important for us to see who is benefiting the most from this. I also hold a view that we can not villainise the addicts of the tobacco and nicotine and when we have them in our workplaces that there needs to be credible option for them to do that in a safe way."
Councillor Kesh Naidoo-Rauf said until vaping products were regulated the Smokefree policy did need to include vaping.
Councillor Mark Bunting said that council was trying to achieve the wellbeing of their citizens.
"I have been swayed over the line when we were told that vaping is making children smoke," Bunting said.