Government Recommends Smokers Dump the Cigarettes and Pick up the Vape
Vaping is about to become a Government-recommended way for smokers to quit cigarettes.
Despite being increasingly banned in public places, the use of e-cigarettes will soon be promoted as a safer alternative to smoking by the Ministry of Health.
A campaign encouraging smokers, and particularly young Maori women, to make the switch will be launched in August and a New Zealand-specific website offering vaping information and tips will go live this month.
While the campaign pushes vaping as a way to quit, it will also aim to stop non-smokers, particularly those under the age of 18, from picking up the electronic devices.
The campaign marks a change in position for the Ministry of Health who have been cautious in their stance on vaping as a tool for would-be quitters.
Currently their website says it "does not have enough evidence to recommend vaping products confidently as a smoking-cessation tool" and that people who choose to vape should eventually stop that as well.
Despite that, a spokesman said vaping "is intended to be a safe gateway for smokers wanting to transition from cigarettes".
Maori women were the focus due to their high smoking rate: 32.5 per cent, compared with the country's total rate of 13.8 per cent.
"There is scientific consensus that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking. It is likely vaping can also be used to stop smoking but the evidence is still emerging. A number of large studies are underway and more information will be available over the next year."
The country's smoke-free target of 2025 was always going to be challenging.
"Although the program has had good impact on reducing harm from tobacco for most New Zealanders, the impact for Maori, Pacific and low socioeconomic groups hasn't been as significant."
In regard as to whether vaping equipment could be subsided - like nicotine gum and patches - no manufacturer or importer of a vaping device had gone through the Med-safe regulation process at this stage.
Ash spokesman Ben Youden said there was still a lot of confusion about vaping and many people still thought it was as bad as smoking.
"The scientific consensus is vaping is 95 per cent less harmful that smoking cigarettes."
While the initial outlay for equipment could vary from $50 to $100, the financial benefits quickly made up for the starting cost.
"Over a year, vaping will cost about 10 per cent of what that person would have spent on cigarettes."
Although Youden welcomed the Government's stance, one recent quitter questioned the effectiveness of swapping one habit for another.
After nearly 60 years of smoking and numerous attempts at quitting, Gaynor Fiske has been smoke-free for nearly a year but said vaping was more of a hinderance than a help.
"You're still puffing away, still looking for a corner to hide around, if you don't break the habit you don't stand a chance."
Wellington man Dan Foster started vaping a decade ago and said the switch from cigarettes was not only cheaper, but had also appeared to resolve some health problems.
"I used to get a really bad sinus infection every three months - that's totally gone away."
While his daily pack of cigarettes used to set him back about $17, he now spends a weekly maximum of $35 on vape fluid.
"It's probably not 100 per cent safe - inhaling anything is not good. But it's definitely better for you. People have vices: they're going to do it so give them a safe way to smoke."
According to Smoke-free NZ, 13 per cent of New Zealand adults smoke daily, a drop from 25 per cent in 1996/97. Maori women have the highest smoking rate at 37 per cent, and Maori men are next at 30 per cent.