Last updated 05:00, March 31 2015
OPINION: Mike Yardley
If New Zealand is serious about reaching the lofty aspirational summit of becoming “Smokefree by 2025”, our public health officials must pull the pin on their priggishness to the e-cigarettes revolution.
To date, their obstinateness mirrors the same sniffy self-righteousness that drives the zealots who rail against any form of low-emission household woodburners. A dose of pragmatism is critically overdue.
You may recall that a year ago I wrote about how e-cigarettes had proven to be the great circuit-breaker, unshackling me from my 20-year long, turbulent and intimate tobacco relationship.
A year on, an ever increasing number of my mates and colleagues are testament to the same break-free success, after having failed to do so, through the cessation cornucopia of gum, patches, hypnosis, Champix . . . the works. Some have now gone the whole hog, first substituting tobacco smoking for vaping (inhaling e-cigarette vapour), but are now vape-free, too. In a classic case of horses for courses, e-cigarettes changed their lives.
Cynics claim vaping is a Clayton’s quit programme. Sure, you’re still getting a nicotine hit but you’re no longer pumping up to 4000 toxic chemicals, tar and carcinogens into your bloodstream. No smelly clothes, no smelly breath and no passive smoking menace. As the e-cigarette revolution continues sweeping the world, some nations are particularly concerned by the dramatic fall in tobacco excise revenue.
The European Union is shamefully considering imposing a similar excise tax on vaping. In contrast, Britain is gearing up to regulate it as a smoking cessation product. The purists have sought to maintain the upper hand in New Zealand. Last year, ASH demonised e-cigarettes as the “alcopops of the smoking world”, despite there being no credible evidence that the product is alluring to teenagers. It was sensationalist, sticky-beaked scare-mongering.
One of New Zealand’s leading smoke-free crusaders has taken a far more responsive and realistic approach. Dr Murray Laugesen has been urging the Ministry of Health to stop faffing about over e-fags and formally recognise the product has a positive role to play.
Under New Zealand law, users have to import liquid nicotine for personal use, from overseas websites, and local outlets who have violated this restriction are being prosecuted. Laugeson is pressing the Health Ministry to allow the nicotine for e-cigarettes to be legally sold by our retailers.
On Friday, Laugesen’s latest compelling study was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, which illustrates that e-cigarettes vapour contains a fraction of the toxins of tobacco smoke and far less nicotine. Laugesen’s study reaffirms they don’t cause cancer or kill people.