The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ says this World Smokefree Day parents need to know that vaping is unregulated, not yet proven to be safe and non-addictive, and is being directly marketed to kiwi kids.

“Vaping and e-cigarettes can be bought at dairies – are directly marketed to kids on posters in places like movie theatres. They are not regulated so the packaging might say the vape is tobacco free but when tested will be shown to contain tobacco,” explains Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) chief executive Letitia O’Dwyer.

“We’re asking for clearer messaging and transparency around how e-cigarettes and vaping should be promoted, sold and used here. New Zealand sometimes focuses on the markets where vaping is praised for aiding in smoking cessation, when it should also be looking at those markets where the products have been banned like Malaysia and Singapore, and are looked at being ‘really clamped down on’.”

She explains that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has recognised that the focus of the vaping and e-cig industry has been on marketing to youth.

“The States have had vaping and e-cigarettes in the market since 2004. Now they see how easily vaping has become cool for kids. I think some of the policy makers here could be out of touch with what is happening in reality. Vaping marketing offers different and attractive flavours and colours such as Vampire’s Blood – lemonade with raspberries and Dragon’s Spit – chocolate and mint ice cream, which are obviously aimed at youth, and this should give us all cause for concern.

“Of course we want a smokefree nation, and we fully support organisations such as Hāpai Te Hauora on achieving Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, but even they urge regulators to include health warnings and messages including relevant information for smoking cessation services; and that these products should have mandatory testing.”

She says part of the problem is that the horse had already bolted by the time the general public became aware of vaping and e-cigs.

“Vaping shops and e-cigs are sold widely – there are hundreds of YouTube clips showing kids blowing vaping clouds. Parents need to talk to their kids about the fact that the products are not regulated and could be unsafe and addictive. It would be a shame if all the successful work done to do smoking were to come undone with young people taking up vaping.”

Dr Stuart Jones, the Medical Director ARFNZ, adds that the organisation is not against e-cigarettes and vaping.

“But we want to see them used in an evidence based fashion with appropriate regulations to help those current smokers to quit.  From a medical perspective, we really want to protect our youth from starting to smoke or vape – period. We really don’t know what e-cigarettes mean in terms of people’s long-term lung health. The way they work means the vape is effectively inhaled directly into the lungs. We can’t say for sure at this moment in time what long term damage this could be doing especially in the developing lungs of young adults and children. We don’t understand enough about the flavours, although more and more published literature is coming out on the toxicity of some of the flavours, and the chemicals used in them and we know that nicotine containing e-liquids are addictive. We simply need more research in this area so we can adequately protect our e-cigarette/vaping ‘never user’ youth from starting, and so people can make informed decisions.”

Other responses to Smokefree Day

New Zealand tobacco company Philip Morris (New Zealand) Limited also weighed in on the topic with the announcement that it is encouraging the New Zealand Government to work on tobacco harm reduction by implementing a sensible plan when it comes to the regulation of smokefree products.

“The Ministry of Health has recently announced its plans to consider how best to apply risk-proportionate regulation to all tobacco and vaping products, following a Wellington District Court ruling earlier this year that effectively legalised smokefree alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products,” said a Philip Morris spokesperson.

The Heart Foundation welcomed this year’s World Smokefree Day with a reminder to smokers of the link between tobacco and heart disease.

“People don’t realise that smoking is responsible for more than 1500 Kiwi deaths from heart disease and stroke each year. Smokers are four times more likely to die of heart disease than a non-smoker. The good news is that quitting is the single best thing they can do for their heart health. The risk halves within a year of going smokefree,” said Heart Healthcare spokesperson Ben Youdan.

DHBs mark day

District Health Boards (DHBs) throughout the country are celebrating fewer people smoking in New Zealand than ever, with latest smokefree statistics showing that 84 per cent of us are smokefree – up four per cent from 80 per cent in 2008.

Bridget Rowse from Northland District Health Board is challenging anyone who’s thinking about stopping smoking to do so today.

“World Smokefree Day on May 31 is the perfect time to choose the smokefree lifestyle.

Meanwhile the Bay of Plenty’s free Stop Smoking Support service, Hāpainga is celebrating being top in the country for its successful quit smoking rate.

New Zealand has 16 Stop Smoking Support services. As part of the Government’s goal of Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, each service is required to record the number of clients who are deemed to have successfully quit smoking meaning they are ‘smokefree’ four weeks after their set quit date.

Hāpainga Team Leader Lizzie Spence says “Our smoking cessation practitioners use a carbon monoxide detector, a bit like a breathalyser at four weeks. Low to nil levels of carbon monoxide shows the person is smokefree.”

Latest Ministry of Health results shows Bay of Plenty is the top performer across the country with a 75% successful quit smoking rate at four weeks.

Ruapehu goes smokefree

And as the cold snap heralds the beginning of the ski and snowboard season – Mt Ruapehu became smokefree officially today.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd (RAL), which operates both Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas, now has a smokefree policy in all indoor and outdoor areas of both ski fields. While indoor areas of the ski fields are already covered by smokefree laws, the new Ruapehu policy will extend to all outdoor public use areas of Whakapapa and Turoa.

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