Sen­si­ble steps on va­p­ing

The Dominion Post - - Opinion -

The Gov­ern­ment has bowed to the in­evitable and de­cided to le­galise va­p­ing. The im­por­tant point is that va­p­ing or e-cig­a­rettes are about 95 per cent less harm­ful than or­di­nary cig­a­rettes, al­though there is some doubt about the long-term ef­fects. So the Gov­ern­ment is right to pro­ceed slowly and with cau­tion.

E-cig­a­rettes will be cheaper than those sold by Big To­bacco and are there­fore ar­guably a safe way for smok­ers to try to quit. They are now ex­ten­sively used over­seas and are said to be the main quit­ters’ de­vice in Bri­tain. New Zealand could hardly avoid al­low­ing them to be used here.

Smok­ing ex­pert Tony Blakely says that e-cig­a­rettes prob­a­bly in­crease the chance of some­one quit­ting to­bacco al­to­gether, but the ex­act ben­e­fit is un­clear. Some­one who uses both e-cig­a­rettes and to­bacco will prob­a­bly suf­fer less harm than if they stick to to­bacco only, he says.

Some of the nois­ier lib­er­tar­i­ans say that va­p­ing is a great boon be­cause it of­fers a safer and cheaper quit mech­a­nism for the poor but se­verely ad­dicted smoker. These peo­ple are caught by ris­ing to­bacco taxes, which clearly pun­ish the poor more than the rich.

Un­for­tu­nately there are other risks and un­cer­tain­ties with e-cig­a­rettes, as Blakely points out. Their wide­spread use might help re-nor­malise smok­ing, at a time when more and more of the pop­u­la­tion sees smok­ing for the squalid, sad and lethal ad­dic­tion that it re­ally is. How many silly young peo­ple will look at the pic­tures of Leonardo diCaprio va­p­ing and de­cide that smok­ing is cool again?

For this rea­son, to­bacco ex­pert Janet Hoek says e-cig­a­rettes should not be sold wher­ever to­bacco is sold. It should be re­stricted to spe­cial­ist vape stores or phar­ma­cies where smok­ers can get ex­pert ad­vice that will help to quit. But the Gov­ern­ment hasn’t taken up this ad­vice.

Since the leg­is­la­tion won’t take ef­fect till late next year, there is still time for the Gov­ern­ment to change its mind about this. Ex­perts will have to de­cide whether a re­stricted sup­ply is nec­es­sary or in­deed whether the ad­vice of, say, phar­ma­cists will make a ma­te­rial dif­fer­ence to the habit of smok­ers and vapers. More­over, As­so­ciate Health Min­is­ter Nicky Wag­ner is wrong to dis­miss the fact that big to­bacco com­pa­nies have spo­ken in favour of va­p­ing. Big To­bacco has for decades tried to es­cape the tight­en­ing vice of health reg­u­la­tors and will al­ways try to sub­vert the anti-smok­ing mes­sage that now threat­ens to kill it and its lethal prod­ucts and blood-stained prof­its.

Pre­sum­ably the com­pa­nies cal­cu­late that va­p­ing and smok­ing will be­come con­fused by many and that this will help re­verse the fall in to­bacco con­sump­tion. For that rea­son there must be some doubt about whether va­p­ing should be banned in all the pub­lic places where to­bacco is now rightly banned. If va­p­ing is al­lowed in these places, will it help to nor­malise killer cig­a­rettes again?

This mat­ters, be­cause de­spite decades of pub­lic health leg­is­la­tion and a ris­ing pub­lic re­vul­sion at the smok­ing in­dus­try, some 4000-odd New Zealan­ders die pre­ma­turely every year through smok­ing. The war against smok­ing is a war to the death.

The main risk is that they nor­malise smok­ing again.

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