By: Jacob McSweeny

A leading GP and anti-smoking campaigner in Whanganui is now actively promoting vaping as an option for people trying to quit smoking.

Dr John McMenamin is the clinical director of Whanganui’s Stop Smoking Service (Ngā Taura Tūhono) and a GP at Wicksteed House Medical Centre.

Previously there wasn’t enough information about vaping and the devices were not legal, he said.

“As a result of a recent court ruling, the sale of vaping devices and nicotine liquid is now legal in New Zealand,” McMeniman said, and he was now promoting vaping as a means to quitting cigarettes.

“Vaping nicotine is about 95 per cent safer than smoking cigarettes – but not totally safe.

“Vaping to quit gives us another option to offer people and for many it will offer a very realistic way of successfully quitting.

“We’re very keen for people to vape rather than smoke. The issue is that there is some harm associated with vaping.”

His comments were not to be taken lightly; McMenamin was also the Ministry of Health’s Primary Care Champion for Tobacco Control and chaired the Whanganui DHB’s Tobacco Advisory Group.

“We’re into harm reduction so we’re happy for people to shift from a more harmful process to a less harmful process but our actual message is let’s come off both products altogether.”

McMenamin stressed he promoted vaping as the third alternative to other quitting methods.

Joel Leiva Benegas sells e-juice, the liquid used in vapes, out of his Whanganui home.

He said endorsements by health professionals like McMenamin are great but they’ve been too conservative.

“New Zealand is way too slow,” he said.

“The Royal College of Physicians in London published a report saying electronic cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than smoking.

“Their research had already been filtering out since 2015. We’re talking about more than three years ago.”

Leiva Benegas said people were aware vapes were a healthier alternative and have been using them regardless of the advice from health authorities.

The Royal College of Physicians report also stated technological developments and improved production standards could reduce the long-term hazard of e-cigarettes.

Leiva Benegas also raised concerns there was not enough information about vapes.

“The Government has to open up; first they say this is another option for you, and this works.

“They should hire competent people to answer questions [about vaping].”

Leiva Benegas said without adequate information and support about vapes people would pay a lot to start but may move back to cigarettes if they ran into problems such as a device failing.

Last year as the district council banned vaping from a number of public spaces.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall raised concerns about vaping being a gateway to cigarettes.

The Royal College of Physicians stated that e-cigarettes were being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others.

Source: NZ Herald

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