Call for pharmacists to get ahead of medicinal cannabis surge

New Zealand’s over 3,500 practising pharmacists need to urgently familiarise themselves with medicinal cannabis. Patient enquiries and demand are set to surge when Kiwi-made products come onto the market later this year, says one pharmacist who should know.

Charge pharmacist and co-owner at Ngā Hua Pharmacy in Hamilton, James Yu, has arguably processed more medicinal cannabis prescriptions than anyone in the country. He’s dispensed it to more than 600 patients in the past three years and counting.

“I’ve seen medicinal cannabis very successfully prescribed for the likes of pain, seizure control, anxiety, insomnia, and for rarer conditions. Most know about CBD and THC, but cannabis has dozens more compounds which could be harnessed to treat many different conditions. Science is starting to unleash its vast therapeutic potential,” he says.

Mr Yu’s now calling on his colleagues to prepare and upskill themselves for significant patient questions with local product availability the catalyst. Doctors will also be quizzing pharmacists.

“Often, the first point of call for enquiries about medicinal cannabis are pharmacists. That includes from doctors who field questions from their patients and then often ask their community pharmacist. Therefore, it’s critical that pharmacists understand medicinal cannabis, so they can give the appropriate advice. A lack of knowledge, otherwise, will only add a barrier to patients wanting to access medicinal cannabis,” he says.

The medicinal cannabis postgraduate is strongly encouraging pharmacists to take up two specific opportunities to learn more – both sponsored by Helius Therapeutics, the first medicinal cannabis business to gain a GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines from the Ministry of Health.

Dubbed New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis information service, DATAPHARM’s newly launched MCinfo.com is now online. Registration is free for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. The education initiative also sees highly trained representatives on the road to better inform healthcare professionals about medicinal cannabis

Then on 12 and 13 October, Medcan 2021 Summit take places in Auckland. It will include a one-day Healthcare Professional Forum where experts will present on the endocannabinoid system, clinical data, the applications and prescribing of medicinal cannabis in medical practice.

“MedCan 2021 will contain the most up-to-date information for us as pharmacists. It is a fantastic way to network and meet other health professionals interested in all thing’s medicinal cannabis. At the same time, MCinfo is a great online platform to learn more about key aspects such as our endocannabinoid system and the different indications, dosages, and contraindications of medicinal cannabis,” says Mr Yu.

Past surveys of Kiwi healthcare professionals have confirmed medicinal cannabis knowledge gaps, yet those at the coalface report growing enquiries and demand. Mr Yu says patients are about to get even more interested.

“Having dispensed to over 600 patients, almost all of them at some point ask about a product’s country of origin. Given they’ve all been imported from overseas so far, many patients have made it clear they would prefer to buy and support local. Without doubt then, once we have Kiwi products, we can expect a whole rush new of interest,” he says.

Mr Yu says patients will ask in-depth questions about locally produced medicinal cannabis products. He says these could include the strength of the product, cannabinoid profile, terpene profile, and carrier oils.

“In the last three years I’ve been active in this field, I’ve seen a huge change in the views of many patients and doctors. Further, the continued interest in the therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabis will only grow. It’s important that we stay up to date with the latest knowledge and evidence surrounding medicinal cannabis.

“What’s more, interest and use will only continue to grow. With increasing awareness, research and time, I truly believe medicinal cannabis will change the paradigm of health and longevity,” he says.

As well as dispensing medicinal cannabis from his Hamilton pharmacy, James Yu is a member of Helius Therapeutics’ Expert Advisory Board – a role he values.

Call for pharmacists to get ahead of medicinal cannabis surge

“Helius’ vision and ethos are in line with mine. Not only do they want to tap into the endless therapeutic potential of medicinal cannabinoids, but they’re determined to improve patients’ accessibility. Importantly, they’ve secured both a GMP licence and the most innovative people in their respective fields,” he says.

Chief Executive at Helius Therapeutics, Carmen Doran, says the 100% New Zealand-owned medicinal cannabis company is delighted to have James Yu on its expert advisory board given both his extensive clinical knowledge and patient experience.

“Helius now has a GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines and the best people to get the job done. Helius is also steadfastly committed to education and so we’re thrilled to be backing initiatives to better support the country’s pharmacists,” says Ms Doran.

DATAPHARM Director, Don Budge, says Mr Yu’s encouragement of pharmacists to upskill themselves on medicinal cannabis is appreciated given local products are imminent and pharmacists are an important and trusted touchpoint for patients.

“At the recent Independent Pharmacy Conference in Taupo, we were really buoyed by pharmacists’ genuine interest in learning more about medicinal cannabis. There are many now registered at MCinfo. They’re keen for a single trusted source of information with real-time access to medicinal cannabis’ ongoing global developments,” says Mr Budge.

Helius Therapeutics is the education sponsor of www.mcinfo.com and is foundation sponsor for October’s MedCan Summit 2021www.medcansummit.co.nz

helius.co.nz

New regs: Terrible timing for vape businesses and consumers

New Zealand’s costly vape regulations will drive many small to medium-sized businesses to the wall. Rising prices will also leave many vapers with little choice but to return to deadly cigarettes, says the country’s leading Tobacco Harm Reduction consumer group.

The Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA) says the impact of the August timing is compounded by the fact that New Zealand has gone into total Covid-19 lockdown.

The local industry is now under enormous cost pressure. At the same time, consumers now reliant on specialist vape stores to access the most popular flavours are stuck at home with the physical stores forced closed. General retailers selling cigarettes remain open.

This month has seen the Government ban the most popular vape flavours in general retail outs including all supermarkets, service stations, and convenience stores. They can now only sell three flavours: mint, menthol and tobacco.

August also marks a raft of industry rules, fees and reporting obligations coming into force or taking effect over the next 17 months.

“We have long supported the formalisation of vaping as an R18 activity and mandatory product safety standards. However, a lot of the industry regulation now in effect or timetabled is just not workable. It will seriously hinder New Zealand’s smokefree efforts,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of AVCA.

“We don’t want to see unrealistic regulatory demands costing livelihoods and lives. Subsequently, we’ve now joined the local industry, pushing for urgent changes and clarity,” says Ms Loucas.

New Zealand’s manufacturers, importers and retailers have been frantically trying to make sense of the new regulations.

These include requirements around packaging, health warnings and safety messages on vaping products, product availability and harm reduction notices, R18 notices at each point of sale, manufacturer price lists, vaping product safety requirements, submitting product notifications, only selling notified vaping products, annual reporting and returns, fees, and internal areas.

“One practical concern, for example, is how on earth will manufacturers’ print all the required ingredient, warning and safety messaging on a 15ml bottle of e-liquid. It’s completely unachievable,” she says.

AVCA says the industry is also concerned about intellectual property rights being impeded. For the sake of business viability, sensitive commercial information about specific product formations should be protected, not publicly published. AVCA believes the manufacturer should provide that information as part of its product notification, but the Government should then hold that in strict confidentiality.

Other concerns include the requirement for non-disposable vaping devices to carry serial numbers. While mass manufacturers overseas include serial numbers on the packaging or instructions contained within, the body of the product itself does not include a serial number. Ms Loucas says given all vape hardware is imported into New Zealand, the cost of adding serial numbers would only result in price rises for the Kiwi end consumer.

AVCA says it’s not surprising industry representatives have been meeting with the Vaping Regulatory Authority (VRA) officials this month to try and make sense of it all.

By all accounts those discussions, and considerable industry and consumer feedback, has been positively received by the VRA which has now indicated that greater clarity and changes are imminent.

“We’ve heard good news. The VRA is now working on a simplified approach towards the likes of flavour ingredients and packaging, given the practical challenges manufacturers and importers have raised with them. The industry is now expecting the VRA to issue clearer guidance, which we’re expecting soon,” she says.

Ms Loucas says regardless of any new guidance from the VRA, the many new vaping regulations will have a negative impact across the country.

“This myriad of unnecessarily complex red-tape will add significant cost to Kiwi businesses and vapers. Removing all but three vape flavours in general retail, while stocking a full range of cigarettes and tobacco products, has also taken away adults’ rights to access safer nicotine alternatives,” she says.

To view New Zealand’s Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act (including regulations) key timeline, please visit:

https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/pages/vra_timeline_serpa_and_regs_aug_21.pdf

Banning 70% of vape products will only help Govt coffers

Today – 11 August – marks the first day that New Zealand general retailers cannot sell a wide range of vape flavours. One industry leader says the move will sadly result in more cigarette sales – hampering Smokefree Aotearoa but boosting the Government’s rapidly diminishing tobacco tax take.

General retailers include service stations, supermarkets and convenance stores. As part of the vaping legislation Parliament passed last year, general retailers are now only permitted to sell three vape flavours: Menthol, mint, and tobacco.

“It’s crazy that Kiwis desperate to quit cigarettes can walk into a service station and buy any cigarette brand under the sun. They can’t, however, access the most popular vapes flavours. It makes no sense when vaping has been proven to be 95% less harmful than smoking,” says Jonathan Devery – co-owner of the largest Kiwi-owned vape companies, Alt New Zealand and VAPO.

He says the regulatory change will make it less likely for Kiwi smokers to make the safer switch, opting for the more readily available cigarettes instead.

Both ex-smokers, Mr Devery and fellow business partner Ben Pryor believe the Government needs to monitor this new restriction like a hawk to ensure it’s not hampering its Smokefree Aotearoa reboot.

“The latest service station industry data shows that tobacco sales – both in terms of volume and value – have been falling like a stone. It’s only because safer nicotine alternatives like ours have been on a rapid ascent. After achieving record low smoking rates, a return to cigarette smoking would be an absolute disaster,” says Mr Devery.

Leading the charge against smoking and Big Tobacco, the independent New Zealand vape business has catapulted in the past two years to becoming one of the largest suppliers – of all products supplied – to the country’s service stations.

“Tobacco tax takings have been completely walloped by vaping, as Budget 2021 showed. It’s then a very interesting time to eliminate 70% of vaping products from the same general retail outlets that have traditionally been a cash cow for tobacco revenue,” says Mr Devery.

The entrepreneurs believe it’s well overdue for the Government to get tougher on Big Tobacco via its soon to be released smokefree action plan. As it stands, less harmful vaping remains more heavily regulated.

Unlike cigarette retailers, specialist vape stores have to be registered, enabling them to sell a wide range of flavours. With fewer dedicated vape stores in the likes of rural areas, Alt and VAPO’s owners believe many Kiwis trying to reduce or quit their cigarette habit will only find it harder.

“Adults love flavours. They are key to successfully quitting cigarettes! Banning the most popular vape flavours like dessert and fruit variations in New Zealand’s highest traffic retail outlets, but leaving cigarette availability alone, makes no sense. Unless the Government is after a tobacco tax boost, it now needs to hit access to tobacco, and hard!”

“We eagerly await the Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall’s finalised Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan. If New Zealand is to ever achieve smokefree, the balance must be tilted in favour of safer nicotine alternatives,” says Jonathan Devery.

Ends

Contact: Jonathan Devery – Director of Alt New Zealand – (027) 886-0796

Healthcare professionals encouraged to attend cannabis summit

With the availability of highly desired local medicinal cannabis products fast approaching, healthcare professionals are being encouraged to attend MedCan 2021.

The call comes as MedSafe has issued the local industry’s first GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) Licence to Manufacture Medicines toHelius Therapeutics. With other local companies also set for GMP certification, Kiwi patients can expect high-quality and more affordable New Zealand medicinal cannabis products by the end of this year.

Focused on ‘a new frontier of care’, the well-timed Medcan 2021 Summit will connect medicine, science, industry and technology. It will take place at Auckland’s Cordis hotel on 12 and 13 October.

“We’re putting the call out to patients currently using, or interested in, medicinal cannabis to encourage their doctor or pharmacist to attend. MedCan 2021 is the best opportunity healthcare professionals have this year to better equip themselves to prescribing medicinal cannabis products,” says Dr Zahra Champion, Executive Director of BioTechNZ and MedCan Summit 2021 organiser.

Healthcare professionals encouraged to attend cannabis summit

The 500-plus attendees expected in person and digitally will hear from over 30 subject experts. Speakers include international and local scientists, medical experts, clinicians, entrepreneurs, investors and policymakers.

MedCan’s full two-day programme has now been released and registrations are open, with early bird discounts applying until 31 August. Once again, the summit has designed a specific stream for healthcare professionals.

The one-day Healthcare Professional Forum will see experts present on the endocannabinoid system, clinical data, the applications and prescribing of medicinal cannabis in medical practice.

“We are keen for more GPs to attend given they’re critical to patient access. Further, the educational components of MedCan 2021 have been endorsed by The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand; and endorsement from RNZCGP is currently under submission,” says Dr Champion.

MedCan’s foundation sponsor, Helius Therapeutics, says a dedicated forum for healthcare professionals is timely given local products will start to become available in the coming months.

“MedCan 2021’s full day programme for health professionals is a big drawcard for more GPs, and the likes of pharmacists, to attend. As well as the Medicine forum, organisers have put together two impressive Science and Industry streams. Helius is delighted to once again sponsor MedCan – an incredibly important annual summit for our sector and country,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

Other key supporters confirmed include gold sponsor Eqalis and bronze sponsor Puro – both also local medicinal cannabis businesses. Organisers say other sponsorship, exhibition and networking packages remain available.

With last year’s inaugural MedCan 2020 a sell-out success, New Zealand’s only medicinal cannabis summit will comprehensively explore a wide array of local and global opportunities and challenges.

“Over $100 million has been invested so far in New Zealand’s medicinal cannabis industry. It’s been a long and tough road, but delivery of high-quality cost-effective local products is now imminent. There’s huge anticipation from patients, and rest assured our local industry cannot wait to deliver. Everyone is well and truly up for it,” says Dr Champion.

Industry experts will present the latest scientific findings and breakthrough technologies. The likes of cultivating, manufacturing, New Zealand regulations, export, clinical trials, and investment will be well canvased.

“The invaluable insights gained at Medcan 2021 will help local companies accelerate their path to market. Education, innovation and collaboration are key to the success of New Zealand’s newest and most exciting industry,” says Dr Zahra Champion.

For more information on the summit, please email [email protected] or visit www.medcansummit.co.nz

MedCan Summit 2021 is organised by NZTech and BioTechNZ – a not for profit, membership-funded organisation with the goal of maximising New Zealand’s bioscience and technology capability to create a strong New Zealand bioeconomy. BioTechNZ is part of the New Zealand Tech Alliance.

www.medcansummit.co.nz

Ends

Contact: Dr Zahra Champion, Executive Director, BioTechNZ – 021 899 732

Attached: Images for MedCan 2021

Panel discussion to pull apart WHO’s latest tobacco report

“The WHO is condemning millions of smokers to certain death by denying them the right to safer alternatives. With biased evidence and bad science, its latest report evokes moral panic. The Advocates Voice will expose it for what it is,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA.

The eight episode of The Advocates Voice (TAV 8) follows the World Health Organization (WHO) releasing its eighth annual report on the global tobacco epidemic last month.

TAV 8 will premiere at 4.00pm Hong Kong Time / 9:00am GMT on Sunday, 15 August.

CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) says the WHO’s latest attack on safer nicotine products, driven and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, deserves the global ridicule it has attracted.

With the call ‘we need to get louder’ and ‘we are the evidence’, TAV 8 will kick off with a passionate video presentation. Featuring leading Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) experts and advocates, a panel discussion will follow.

TAV 8 will include Founding Chairman of ATHRA (Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association) Dr Colin Mendelsohn. He will talk about the looming restrictions for Australian vapers. From 1 October, it will be illegal for anyone to import nicotine for personal use without a prescription from a medical doctor, with penalties up to $222,000.

As a medical doctor who works full-time in tobacco treatment, Dr Mendelsohn will discuss the regulation’s likely impact on Australian smokers and vapers, and if pro-vaping new Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce can change anything.

TAV 8 will provide THR public policy updates on what is happening in Malaysia and Mexico. It will also announce the launch of a new global advocacy initiative which encourages personal stories from around the world.

Led by Nancy Loucas, the TAV 8 panel will include Asia Pacific THR consumer advocates: Peter Paul Dator from the Philippines (Director of Vapers PH), Asa Saligupta (Director of ECST – ENDs Cigarette Smoke Thailand) and Samsul Kamal Ariffin (President of MOVE – Malaysian Organization of Vape Entities).

The discussion will centre around the impacts of the WHO report on consumers and what can, and should be, done to counter the misinformation narrative.

It will be simulcast on CAPHRA’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/caphraorg and YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/3fvNF4m. Questions from viewers to the panel are encouraged.

“Consumer advocates are increasingly angry that the WHO continues to promote its baseless and incredibly destructive view on vaping. It comes despite leading scientific evidence confirming vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking and is the world’s most effective smoking cessation tool,” she says.

Nancy Loucas says the WHO seems determined to destroy the one version of harm reduction that has potential to reduce illness and save lives globally.

“The very organization charged with looking after our health continues to ramp up its efforts to deny people who smoke access to products that give them the chance to have a long and healthy life,” she says.

TAV 8 will also be encouraging viewers to sign the Right2Switch petition at change.org/v4v-petition. It urges the WHO to respect consumer rights and to stop demonizing Tobacco Harm Reduction options ahead of the next biennial meeting of the WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in November.

To view the TAV 8 promotional video, visit https://youtu.be/QA-gVLWGcsk

For a free digital media repository on tobacco harm reduction in Asia Pacific – including media releases, images and graphics – please visithttps://apthrmedia.org

Helius gains NZ’s first licence to manufacture cannabis medicines

New Zealand’s largest licenced medicinal cannabis company, Helius Therapeutics, has been issued with the industry’s first GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) Licence to Manufacture Medicines by MedSafe. It allows the company to begin manufacturing locally made medicines for New Zealand patients.

“This is our most significant milestone yet at Helius. The GMP Licence means Helius can now move forward to manufacturing high-quality, affordable Kiwi-made medicinal cannabis products. New Zealand doctors will be able to confidently prescribe in the knowledge that Helius meets stringent quality standards,” says Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics.

Based in Auckland’s East Tamaki, Helius began the rigorous and complex journey for the GMP Licence as a start-up in 2018. Through an international recognition scheme, MedSafe’s latest approval also meets European standards, known as EU-GMP, opening future export possibilities for the 100% privately-owned Kiwi company.

By achieving the GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines, Helius joins the likes of Douglas Pharmaceuticals. As well as being the first from the medicinal cannabis industry, Helius becomes only the 20th on Medsafe’s list of organisations licenced to produce medicine in New Zealand.

Helius gains NZ’s first licence to manufacture cannabis medicines

“The GMP licencing process has been exhaustive, and rightly so. We’re making medicines, so there is no room for cutting corners. Helius pulled together an internationally- experienced leadership team from both the pharmaceutical and medicinal cannabis industries to successfully achieve this level of compliance,” she says.

Ms Doran herself is no stranger to the world of pharmaceutical manufacturing. She worked globally with Novartis Pharmaceuticals for 10 years before consulting in the same area, particularly in start-ups and new technology, for the last five years.

Having raised $48m in capital since 2018, Helius has invested significantly in its 8,800sqm indoor cannabis cultivation and manufacturing complex. New Zealand’s largest purpose-built facilities are designed to achieve precision-controlled cannabis cultivation, extraction, purification, product manufacturing and analytical testing. 

“We’ve been pushing hard to build the facilities, procedures and systems that will ensure quality. Ultimately, that is what GMP is about – controlling all the factors that could influence the quality of our processes, so we know that patients will get exactly what their doctor prescribed, every time,” says Bruce Wallace, Chief Quality Officer at Helius Therapeutics.

Mr Wallace joined Helius at the beginning of 2020 and has been instrumental in guiding the team through setting up the processes needed to bring medicines to market. He brings 25 years of pharmaceutical experience in both human and animal health having previously worked for Merck in the USA. More recently he was Global Head of Quality for Argenta Manufacturing based here in New Zealand.

Mr Wallace says the GMP Licence certification covers a wide scope from facility design to the training of people. MedSafe assessed and approved the company’s manufacturing, packaging, labelling, testing, storage and distribution processes. Over time, the GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines will expand to include other product types and other parts of the value chain. 

As a newly licenced company in a new industry, Helius can expect routine GMP audits to ensure its high standards are maintained. As it adds additional manufacturing capabilities to its licence, each new manufacturing process type will trigger a new audit. 

Mr Wallace says ongoing audits are positive for all involved.

“Having experienced, professional inspectors, such as the Medsafe GMP team, challenging your systems can only improve your processes and outcomes,” he says.

While Helius now has the necessary GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines, products will also need to meet quality standards set by New Zealand’s Medicinal Cannabis Agency to establish safety, stability, and efficacy via the Product Registration process.

“The final step for us in being able to supply medicines is providing the Medicinal Cannabis Agency with data and evidence to demonstrate these products meet the required standards. That’s not easy, but absolutely necessary to ensure products are safe and effective. Helius views this as non-negotiable and in line with bringing other medicines to market.  We are, after all, talking about medicines for people and their loved ones,” says Mr Wallace.

Ms Doran agrees that patients and doctors need the utmost confidence that medicinal cannabis products prescribed are of uncompromising quality and safety.

Helius gains NZ’s first licence to manufacture cannabis medicines

“The Helius team has reviewed regulations and requirements for medicinal cannabis products in several major export markets. We can confidently say New Zealand’s standards are equivalent or higher than those overseas, and that’s a good thing,” she says.

As a leader in New Zealand’s newest industry, Helius acknowledges recent commentary that the country’s medicinal cannabis regulations are too hard and it’s taking too long for locally-made products to be approved. 

“We totally get it. There’s no time to rest until New Zealand patients have more treatment options. However, no one is dragging the chain here. Despite being a botanical product, it’s worth remembering that medicines typically take five to 10 years to develop and approve – and we are well ahead of that.

“In fact, we believe patients will have access to Kiwi-made products from later this year. All of us at Helius Therapeutics, MedSafe, the Medicinal Cannabis Agency, and the wider industry are working incredibly hard to make that happen,” she says.

Carmen Doran says Helius has built the team and facilities to get the job done, motivated by an unwavering commitment to improve patients’ quality of life. 

“The GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines is the pivotal moment in being able to bring the first products to market. We are excited about these products as well as the novel therapeutics in the pipeline to come.

“It has been a tremendous effort from our founders, investors, and team to turn a vision into what is now a fully-fledged medicines production company. Being New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to gain GMP certification and Licence to Manufacture Medicines is a huge win for Helius and we’re all incredibly proud,” she says.

Helius Therapeutics is the foundation sponsor of MedCan Summit 2021, which will take place on 12 and 13 October in Auckland.

helius.co.nz

Otago study sends mixed messages on best quit smoking tool

/New Zealand/ A University of Otago study that claims the transition from cigarettes to vaping is not as straightforward as many think is not helpful to the many Kiwis desperate to quit smoking, says one leading Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocate.

“The process of kicking cigarettes, via vaping, is never straightforward and it does vary from smoker to smoker. However, what the University of Otago researchers fail to acknowledge is despite this, vaping remains the most effective smoking cessation tool in the world by a long shot. What’s more, ongoing personalised support is key,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).

Ms Loucas says between 2016 and 2018, AVCA designed and ran its own Vape It Forward (VIP) programme with considerable success, achieving an 83% quit rate.

“VIF was a holistic mentoring programme for adults who had tried to stop smoking using conventional methods. It proved that holistic, wraparound support without time constraints works. There is no reason to shame someone who dual uses cigarettes and vapes before completely switching over. That’s not failure. That’s part of the journey,” she says.

AVCA says the problem with such studies and conventional smoking cessation programmes is that they are not holistic, nor do they last long enough.

“It takes time for people to switch to vaping. What worked for VIF participants was the support from their mentor, the lack of judgement, and the understanding that everyone’s journey is different due to their individual situations,” she says.

Ms Loucas says AVCA has taken every opportunity to inform various academics, health providers and the Ministry of Health of its VIF findings in recent years, but sadly the success of AVCA’s programme has largely fallen on deaf ears.

“The likes of the Health Promotion Agency, Maori health providers and District Health Boards continue to promote vaping programmes as an effective way to quit smoking, but we could be doing so much better. Unfortunately, the Ministry took away the ability for community and consumer groups like ours to run the most successful programmes,” she says.

Since the passing of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020 those able to run and communicate smoking cessation programmes, through vaping, is heavily restricted.

“If Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall really wants to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa, she needs to embrace the success of community programmes like Vape It Forward, not ban them. Here’s hoping the Government’s smokefree action plan, out soon, once again empowers the community to support Kiwis quitting cigarettes. That’s how New Zealand will achieve smokefree,” says Nancy Loucas.

Vaping product standards behind a paywall – disappointing

After 2,518 submissions on the latest draft vaping regulations, it’s disappointing that local vape businesses and advocates have had to jump on a plane or dig deep into their pockets to view what’s proposed,” says a leading Tobacco Harm Reduction advocate.

The Government has gazetted the ‘Notice of Proposed Quality Standards for Vaping Substance Ingredients’, but it comes with a catch.

Due to copyright restrictions, those interested and businesses reliant on the details need to make an appointment to view the documents at the Ministry of Health’s office in Wellington. Alternatively, they’re advised to purchase copies of the United States Pharmacopoeia or the European Pharmacopoeia, where the proposed New Zealand standards have been referenced.

Submitters have been given until Thursday, 22 July to comment on the proposed material. The finalised vaping regulations will then be taken to Cabinet in early August for sign-off and phased in overtime.

“Unless we pay a fair ransom or take our photographic memories to Wellington, we simply cannot access these new industry specs. How can we possibly comment, let alone businesses prepare in a manufacturing sense, when no one can freely view the detail,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).

AVCA has consistently called for vaping legislation and regulation. Last year, Parliament legislated vaping and since then a raft of industry, retail, and consumer regulations have started to take effect or been drafted.

“We are fully supportive of vaping’s R18 status and greater consumer protection through mandatory quality product standards. The Government now looks set to reference the European and US standards, and so we’re just asking for greater transparency.

“Surely, New Zealand vape businesses should be able to view their proposed industry standards for free? Surely, we can do better than point to a paywall, or have one copy available in an office in Wellington?”

Ms Loucas says AVCA called on the Vaping Regulatory Authority to at least ensure the proposed quality standards were also available at the Ministry of Health’s office in Auckland – where many of the country’s vape manufacturers and vape advocates reside.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been advised the only inspection site for the pharmacopoeia is in Wellington. The authority has assured us they’ll publish more information on the regulations once they’ve cleared Cabinet, but by then it’s all a little too late.

“We now strongly encourage Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall to release the full finalised regulatory details to local businesses, and into the public arena, as soon as the process allows,” says Nancy Loucas.

For links to the Government’s Gazette or the Vaping Regulatory Authority’s updated information please visit:

https://gazette.govt.nz/notice/id/2021-go2819?stageDraft

https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/regulation-health-and-disability-system/regulation-vaping-and-smokeless-tobacco-products

Increasing abuse against THR advocates revealed

/New Zealand/ A full and frank international panel discussion revealed public attacks on Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) advocates are increasingly personal, derogatory and defamatory.

‘Headlined ‘the battle between innovation and bully tactics’, the seventh episode of The Advocates Voice (TAV 7) led with public health expert, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos.

Hosted by Asia Pacific’s CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) the 11 July discussion is available to view on https://youtu.be/l3HH_qzs-08

Moderated by CAPHRA’s Nancy Loucas, TAV 7 included public relations expert and Medical Observer publisher, Jena Fetalino (Managing Director of JFPRC, Philippines). She believed the abuse levelled at THR advocates and the industry reflected just one thing.

“It shows that anti-vaping groups are now running out of arguments to justify their case and resort to defamation to demonize the vaping industry, the nicotine consumers, THR advocates, and THR in general,” said Ms Fetalino.

She encouraged THR advocates not to be silent but to confront ‘fake news’ head on: “They should be direct, straight forward and simple in their response, so that people will understand the issue, no matter how complex it may be.”

“Even if the attackers choose to focus on hitting below the belt, we should remain calm and present facts to inform and not to insult… We should be patient enough to clarify the issue by presenting our side, deny inaccurate information and rectify the errors… We should be armed with facts and evidence. In the end, the readers will discern what is true,” she said.

Ms Fetalino said instead of smokers, vapers and THR being demonized, the better story is who prevents smokers from changing, who prevents the tobacco industry from trying to become better, and who wants to block less harmful alternatives.

She was optimistic that opinions on THR will change over time, as ultimately science is on the side of THR.

Mirza Abeer (Director of ASAP Pakistan – Association for Smoking Alternatives in Pakistan), said a new wave of attacks is now being seen.

He described it as a natural progression. “Once THR opponents could no longer attack the science, they would target advocates and consumers. Such attacks must be met with fact-based arguments to break holes in their stories and show you’re not a soft target,” he said.

Asa Saligupta (Director of ECST – ENDs Cigarette Smoke Thailand) described it as fighting an uphill battle that would further escalate, but one in which consumers must stick together.

“If everyone thinks, ‘why bother it’s going to be too difficult’, then nothing’s going to happen…Then again, I look at my health, I came back from quitting smoking and turned to vaping. I look at my friends especially my sons… they quit smoking by vaping… Without Tobacco Harm Reduction, that would not be possible. They have thrived,” said Mr Saligupta.

Concluding the TAV 7 discussion, Dr Farsalinos said: ‘We need to be patient. We need to be consistent with our principals, with ethics of course, and we should not succumb to extortion. That’s my message.”

Consumer groups in the Asia Pacific region have also launched a petition at change.org/v4v-petition that urges the World Health Organisation (WHO) to respect consumer rights and to stop demonizing Tobacco Harm Reduction options ahead of the next biennial meeting of the WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in November.

For a free digital media repository on tobacco harm reduction in Asia Pacific – including media releases, images and graphics – please visithttps://apthrmedia.org

About CAPHRA

The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Advocates (CAPHRA) is a regional alliance of consumer tobacco harm reduction advocacy organizations. Its mission is to educate, advocate and represent the right of adult alternative nicotine consumers to access and use of products that reduce harm from tobacco use.

https://caphraorg.net/

Ends

Images attached and photo captions:

Nancy Loucas – CAPHRA’s Executive Coordinator moderated the seventh episode of The Advocates Voice (TAV 7).

CAPHRA logo – CAPHRA hosted a full and frank international panel discussion revealing public attacks THR advocates are increasingly personal, derogatory, and defamatory.

Jena Fetalino – PR expert Jena Fetalino is optimistic that opinions on THR will change over time, as ultimately science is on the side of THR.

TAV logo – TAV 7 encouraged THR advocates not to be silent but to confront ‘fake news’ head on.

CAPHRA’s Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/caphraorg

Vaping panel delves deep into lies, bullying this Sunday

/New Zealand/ The seventh episode of The Advocates Voice (TAV 7) will premiere at 6.00pm Hong Kong Time – 11.00am GMT – on Sunday, 11 July.

Headlined ‘the battle between innovation and bully tactics’, the international panel will explore a global web of anti-vape lies.

TAV 7 will be led by public health expert, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos. It will be simulcast on CAPHRA’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/caphraorg. Live questions from viewers to the panel are encouraged.

Hosted by Asia Pacific’s CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates), its Executive Coordinator, Nancy Loucas, says TAV is gaining a strong following among Tobacco Harm Reduction supporters and the wider public.

“Billionaire philanthropists are using their money to influence the World Health Organisation (WHO) – and in turn governments who rely on their guidance regarding tobacco policies. It’s a sophisticated global web of lies. Dr Farsalinos and the TAV panel will uncover the truth,” says Ms Loucas.

She says corrupting the public and academic narrative through funding research and influencing the media is out of control. TAV 7 will also shed light on the bully tactics being dispatched on consumer advocates and pro THR scientists.

“To think that vaping – the world’s most effective smoking cessation tool – is being demonised in such a systematic, global way needs to be fully exposed,” says Nancy Loucas.

The TAV 7 panel includes leading Asia Pacific THR consumer advocates: Asa Saligupta (Director of ECST – ENDs Cigarette Smoke Thailand, Mirza Abeer (Director of ASAP Pakistan – Association for Smoking Alternatives in Pakistan), and media expert Jena Fetalino (Director of JFPR Philippines).

Consumer groups in the Asia Pacific region have also launched a petition at change.org/v4v-petition that urges the World Health Organisation (WHO) to respect consumer rights and to stop demonizing Tobacco Harm Reduction options ahead of the next biennial meeting of the WHO Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in November.

For a free digital media repository on tobacco harm reduction in Asia Pacific – including media releases, images and graphics – please visit https://apthrmedia.org