A string of policy updates around the world has some in the vaping community wondering if they’re actually making things worse
It’s not just in America that the vaping community and government are in fierce debates over how to properly regulate e-cigarettes. Unfortunately for vapers, a majority of developed nations have chosen to be extra skeptical. So except for rare examples, such as the UK, most countries are not taking full advantage of all the harm reduction and smoking cessation benefits vaping has to offer. The lack of evidence which was once a legitimate concern for critics is now little more than a flimsy shield against a growing pile of peer-reviewed data. It seems to be working for them, however, as public perception of the risks of vaping remains extremely low. But some legislators in previously skeptical nations have started taking notice.
One of the more recent examples is with New Zealand. They had previously enforced a policy on vaping which was quite similar to the extremely harsh Australian government’s. But this stance has been showing signs of wear over the last few years, as Australia remains strict while New Zealand desired reevaluation. But seemingly good news for vapers is that they recently made up their minds in favor of e-cigarettes. However, some are worried that even with their acknowledgment of the benefit of e-cigarettes, the result will ultimately be the same for the vaping community.
Slowly But Surely
The vaping community first became aware of New Zealand’s shifting perspective earlier this year. An Associate Health Minister, Nicky Wagner, went on the record several times over the year to acknowledge the many harm reduction benefits of vaping. Mostly the Health Ministry made it clear that if outright quitting isn’t an option, vaping could be much less harmful than continued smoking. This approach culminated with an official announcement which made the case for a “cautious approach” on incorporating vaping into their official policies.
The release in question focused on providing smokers with access to useful smoking cessation tools while simultaneously doing everything they can to prevent an increase in teenage vaping. Another significant benefit of this new approach is how it will inform their understanding of the relationship between vaping and smoking rates. Wagner feels that this is a prime opportunity to explore the efficacy of vaping. “This is an opportunity to see if restricted access to e-cigarettes and e-liquid can help lower our smoking rates, reduce harm and save lives. The Government is strongly committed to achieving our goal of a smoke-free New Zealand by 2025.”
What’s Really Going On
After these major announcements, we heard very little from their government about how they were moving forward. This was so unexpected some local governments even placed an official inquiry about what was going on with the announced changes in vaping policy. After months of waiting, the vaping community finally got their answers. New Zealand’s Health Minister, Jenny Salesa formally announced their new official policy on vaping regulations last month. She said that these updated policies would help smokers have access to vaporizers, without exposing minors to unnecessary risk. That being said, the vaping community sees a very different picture. Despite talking a big game, their new policies on vaping treat vaping the same as smoking.
It didn’t take long for many groups to condemn New Zealand’s “updates” as falsely claiming to move the needle forward, while actually keeping the status quo in place. One such critic is Hapai Te Hauora, a Maori Public Health organization. Mihi Blair, the general manager of Hapai Te Hauora, has some serious concerns about the new policy, especially about flavors. “I’m concerned that these regulations will limit smokers’ access to vapes and fruity flavors which research and communities tell us are an appealing draw card towards vapes when transitioning from cigarettes.”
This is precisely the type of fight that the vaping community around the world faces in the coming years. The more evidence we have, the more it makes sense for legislators to regulate them accordingly. One of the biggest battles surrounding vaping will likely remain “what sort of impact does acceptance of vaping have on teens?” Even after we know for sure that vaping is much safer than smoking, lawmakers around the globe will still be debating how to handle their utilization properly.
Creating a balance between helping smokers quit and preventing impressionable teens from picking them up is essential. But being focused on the wrong things in that debate can have serious consequences. You can’t be both a nation which understands and supports vaping, while still entirely equating them with cigarettes in your policymaking. They had the chance to admit their mistakes and move forward helping others, but instead, they’re recognizing the value of vaping without doing anything about it. Many in the vaping community worry that this sort of half-hearted policy change is what’s in store for many nations. But if we genuinely wish to one day live in a world free from tobacco, we must fully acknowledge the benefits of vaping, and adjust our regulations as such.
Do you like New Zealand’s new policy on vaping? What else could they have done that would have pleased more vapers? How should we work to improve the public perception of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.