Most Kiwi vapers started smoking e-cigarettes to help them quit smoking, according to a recent online survey with more than 200 participants.

The findings of the survey, led by Dr Penny Truman from Massey University’s School of Health Sciences, were published this week in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health yesterday, are of interest internationally because vaping products containing nicotine are currently not available to be sold legally in New Zealand.

Dr Truman said the study confirms accessing nicotine for vaping was the main problem people had with vaping. New Zealand is proposing to change the law to allow local sales of nicotine e-cigarettes and nicotine e-liquid (see below) in normal retail outlets as a move to help people quit cigarettes but a decision is still be made on introducing the legislation.

“We found the main reason for trying vaping was to stop or reduce smoking,” said Truman. “Most study participants said they had completely switched from smoking to vaping. Some newer vapers still smoked, but they were still cutting down on cigarettes and some only smoked occasionally.”

“The results suggest that whilst some people switch from smoking to vaping quickly and completely, others have a longer transition. Most of the participants had changed the type of vaporiser they used several times. There was also a pattern of moving away from tobacco flavoured e-liquids, experimenting with many different flavours until they found several they liked and then continued to use on an ongoing basis.”

She said the study added to international evidence suggesting that vaping is less addictive than smoking. Participants tended to go longer in the morning before having a vape, they reduced to e-liquids with less nicotine over time and some vaped only zero nicotine e-liquids.

The researchers, who also included Professor Marewa Glover from Massey’s School of Health Sciences and Trish Fraser, former director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), concluded that legalising the sale of vaping products containing nicotine, would remove one of the main barriers undermining switching to vaping.

Glover said progressing the promised law change and setting some minimum quality standards could support a faster transition from smoking to vaping. “It would also provide clarity around the greatly reduced risk associated with vaping compared to smoking which would encourage more people to make the switch.

“At the moment, inaccurate information about vaping is still being spread by and among health professionals. This needs to stop because it is keeping people smoking – the very opposite of what we want if we are serious about reaching the smoke-free goal of five per cent or less smoking by 2025,” said Glover.

The study was funded by the Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council of New Zealand jointly established Tobacco Control Research Tūranga programme.

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