New Zealand’s tobacco policy has generally disregarded the needs of smokers.
On the upside, there’s been a substantial reduction of smoking uptake in youngsters. On the downside, the present path is not as efficient in helping people to quit as it could be. If New Zealand wishes to accomplish its hopes of “Smokefree by 2025”, reducing smoker prevalence from its current 13.8% of the population to below 5%, smokers need substantially more support in their efforts to quit.
Considering the current level of punitive policies concerning tobacco consumption in New Zealand, the time has come to introduce a more sympathetic and simpler way for smokers to appease their nicotine cravings whilst reducing the harm experienced.
Communication of the risks involved with alternative nicotine delivery products must be proportionate and should be equally balanced with messages of potential benefits. The most damaging message public health experts can give potential quitters is that they ‘might as well smoke’.
I’ll have the nicotine, hold the tar thanks
Vaping has promptly become an abundant and accepted practice all throughout New Zealand regardless of the yet undecided regulations around nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquids.
It welcomes wide public health support despite many health experts first doubting its benefits. These days it is almost unanimously agreed upon that ‘people smoke for the nicotine but they die from the tar’. With other approaches to quit-smoking, the process must be endured as opposed to vaping where it can be enjoyed allowing for increased consumer acceptability.
E-cigarettes are merely one, albeit the most popular one, of many nicotine delivery products that are available overseas and are assisting smokers to cut down their cigarettes use or even quit entirely.
Janesa Jeram from NZinitiative outlines two of these products that could assist New Zealand in achieving its ‘Smokefree by 2025’ goal.
-Swedish snus (reformulated tobacco pouches placed under the gum)
-heat-not burn products (reformulated tobacco heated to release nicotine and flavour)
Along with these products there is also Nicotine gum and patches. One method/product might work for one smoker but fail entirely for the next. Every person is different.
The smokers of New Zealand are entitled to have access to a large range of products that will lessen the harmful effects of cigarette smoking and hopefully assist them in quitting completely.
Too many policies spoil the broth
Ensuring easy access to nicotine product substitutes is a crucial first step, however the NZinitiative’s report ‘Smoke and Vapour’ advises us against the potentially counterproductive act of applying the current regulations on tobacco to these products. Painting the two products with the same brush would be extremely harmful to the end goal of tobacco harm reduction.
Inappropriate restrictions to such products involve:
• Implementing convoluted regulatory regimes (such as the good ol’ FDA in the US) which results in limiting access to these products and often deters market competition
• Restricting e-juice flavours on the grounds that they might appeal to children
•Introducing standardised packaging, as tobacco products have, as this could decrease the uptake of less harmful nicotine products by smokers by reducing the amount of information received.
•Restricting places of sale of these products to only specialist stores and pharmacies.
• Including vaping in smoke-free areas, unfairly comparing the relative risks of these products to the proven and irrefutable risks of second-hand smoking.
• Applying an excise like that of tobacco so as to deter use (and thus deter smokers from changing from cigarettes)
A gentler attitude to the regulation of e-cigarettes can inspire robust market competition where companies compete on risk reduction, creating affordable products and giving a gratifying experience to customers.