Anti-vaping campaign will only send NZ youth back to smoking

“By stirring up anti-vaping hysteria, New Zealand’s Asthma and Respiratory Foundation will only send more minors back to smoking and put the country’s decade long Smokefree 2025 ambition in jeopardy,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA).

Ms Loucas’ comments follow the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation (ARFNZ) launching a video series titled Spotlight on Vaping. It claims ‘New Zealand is experiencing an epidemic of youth vaping’. Together with the Secondary Principals’ Association of NZ (SPANZ), it also claims over a quarter of students have vaped in the past week.

“What these sensationalised numbers don’t take into account is, if 26% of school students had in fact vaped in the past week, many would only be trying it, and secondly, almost all of them would’ve been smoking deadly cigarettes a generation ago,” says Ms Loucas.

CAPHRA says while smoking-related illnesses kill around 5,000 New Zealanders every year, vaping has not reportedly caused one death in the country. In fact, vaping been widely attributed for positively contributing to New Zealand’s plummeting smoking rate. The overall adult daily smoking rate has fallen from 18% in 2006/07 to 9.4% in 2020/21.

“What ARFNZ fails to mention is the 2021 ASH Year 10 Snapshot survey, that they selectively refer to, confirms that vaping is not hooking non-smokers. In that survey, just 3% of those who vape daily have never smoked. What’s more, while many may try it, very few ever become regular vapers, particularly non-smoking students,” she says.

Ms Loucas says while ARFNZ attract headlines by screaming ‘youth vaping epidemic’, University of Auckland researchers in 2020 came to a different conclusion: ‘Our findings do not support the notion of a so-called vaping epidemic in New Zealand or a large youth population dependent on vaping.’

“While no one wants youth vaping, we are not seeing an ‘epidemic’ as ARFNZ would have the public believe.

“ARFNZ should focus on the real problem: Smoking. That’s what is causing illness and killing Kiwis, not vaping. In fact, Public Health England remains resolute that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. ARFNZ has also completely lost its focus with its new nicotine obsession,” she says.

Ms Loucas says ARFNZ’s latest anti-vaping campaign is at odds with New Zealand’s Ministry of Health and the wider health sector’s adoption of a Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategy, supporting vaping as a lead smoking cessation tool.

“ARFNZ seem to forget that Parliament and health officials went through an exhaustive process, examining all the evidence and having all the debates. The end conclusion was to regulate vaping, sanctioning it R18, banning all advertising, and limiting flavours in general retail. A huge effort has been unleashed since 2020 to make vaping less appealing and a lot harder for youth to access.

“The question then being, if all these youth are accessing vaping products, we need to find out where and why and deal to it at the point of sale, according to the law. Further, if parents are seeing their children using the products, then it is up to them to uphold their responsibilities as parents and not blame the products themselves.

“New Zealand has Smokefree 2025 in its sights, but a vocal minority, like ARFNZ, are doing their best to sabotage it with hysteria not backed up by evidence. If New Zealand wants to be the envy of the world, achieving an overall smoking rate of 5% or less, then let’s not attack the very thing that will enable such success,” says Nancy Loucas.

New Zealand must not sabotage its Smokefree 2025 goal

“New Zealand is at risk of not achieving its decade long Smokefree 2025 ambition if commentators continue to demonise the most effective quit-smoking tool we have right now,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA).

Ms Loucas’ comments follow a recent return of anti-vaping media coverage, including claims that vaping is akin to past generations getting hooked on deadly smoking.

“New Zealand finally has Smokefree 2025 in its sights, but a vocal minority are doing their best to sabotage it. If New Zealand wants to be the envy of the world, CAPHRA is calling on the small, progressive nation to keep its eyes on the prize and not kill off the very goose that’s laying the smokefree golden egg,” she says.

New Zealand’s overall adult daily smoking rate has fallen from 18% in 2006/07 to 9.4% in 2020/21. The dramatic fall corresponds with the country’s health ministry and sector adopting a Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategy, supporting vaping as a lead smoking cessation tool.

“There seems to be renewed alarm about youth vaping. That’s despite nicotine killing no one and combustible tobacco killing 5,000 Kiwis every year. No one wants secondary school students vaping. Let’s not forget, however, the latest survey clearly shows any school vapers are overwhelmingly those who were smoking in the first place,” she says.

The ASH Year 10 Snapshot surveyed 26,000 Kiwi students. It confirmed that vaping is not hooking non-smokers, with just three percent of those who vape daily having never smoked. It also showed that now just 1.3% of 13 and 14-year-olds smoke daily in New Zealand.

Ms Loucas says commentators continue to overlook one important factor with the latest Year 10 survey on smoking and vaping behaviour and attitudes: It was conducted in 2021 when the Government’s regulations were relatively new.

“The full impacts of the total ban on vaping advertising, restrictions on displays, and the strict sanctioning of 18 as the purchase age will be seen in future surveys. It’s tiring that commentators’ keep calling for restrictions when the reality is much tougher rules have been rolling out for the past two years, including new packaging regulations from 11 May,” says Ms Loucas.

While New Zealand’s Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020 is viewed internationally as relatively progressive, CAPHRA believes some provisions should be reviewed.

Since 11 August 2021, general retailers such as supermarkets, service stations and convenience stores have been limited to just selling three flavours – mint, menthol and tobacco. Only licenced specialist vape stores can sell a full range of more popular flavours.

“The act claims to strike a balance between ensuring vaping products are available to adult smokers while protecting young people. However, banning the most popular flavours from general retail only stops adult Kiwis from quitting smoking. We’re calling on the next Director-General of Health to review this provision because it’s hampering New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 efforts,” she says.

CAPHRA is also quick to dismiss any claims by commentators that vaping’s long-term health effects remain unknown. A decade of international studies has proven vaping is miles safer than smoking, with Public Health England resolute that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes.

The country’s goal of Smokefree 2025 – where 5% or less of the general population smoke – is looking increasingly likely to be achieved. However, CAPHRA and other THR advocates were disappointed the Government’s recently released Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan failed to further elevate vaping as a viable alternative for Kiwi smokers keen to quit.

“The likes of some media commentators and University of Otago academics continue to distract the Government and country from doing what is right. We need to keep New Zealand’s focus on cigarette elimination but increasingly the country is getting side-tracked by calls to ban vaping and for nicotine to be phased out all-together. These are very unhelpful distractions that won’t save one life,” says Nancy Loucas.

NZ’s next Director-General must review vaping regs and role

The attitude and actions of the next Director-General of Health will be key to New Zealand achieving Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, says the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA).

“This person could make or break Smokefree 2025. He or she advises the Government, oversees regulation, and has the final say on new vape store licences. It’s an incredibly important position when it comes to New Zealand effectively addressing tobacco,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA.

Current Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will leave the job in July, with his successor yet to be appointed. While his role in New Zealand’s management of the pandemic is well-known, he has also been a central figure in the country’s regulation of vaping.

Ms Loucas says while New Zealand’s Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020 is viewed internationally as relatively progressive, there are some provisions that the next Director-General should review.

“The act claims to strike a balance between ensuring vaping products are available to adult smokers while protecting young people. Sanctioning it as an R18 product has helped achieve that. However, banning the most popular flavours from general retail is only stopping adult smokers from quitting deadly tobacco,” she says.

Since 11 August 2021, general retailers such as supermarkets, service stations and convenience stores have been limited to just selling three flavours – mint, menthol and tobacco. Only licenced specialist vape stores can sell a full range of more popular flavours.

“The next Director-General of Health must review this restriction on general retail. By the time he or she takes office, the flavour ban would have run a year and many of us strongly believe it’s hindering not helping New Zealand achieve Smokefree 2025.

“Adult smokers desperate to quit can go to a supermarket and choose any brand of cigarette under the sun, yet they can only choose from three vape flavours. That’s not enabling them to make the best decision for their health nor is it helping New Zealand reduce its smoking rate,” says Ms Loucas.

With youth smoking at a historic low and 9.4% of adults now daily smoking, New Zealand’s goal of Smokefree 2025 – where 5% or less of the general population smoke – is looking increasingly likely to be achieved.

CAPHRA says overall Dr Bloomfield has been a supporter of New Zealand’s Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) public health strategy. This has included approving and promoting messages on the Ministry of Health’s Vaping Facts website which headlines ‘vaping is less harmful than smoking’ – an approach which has been heavily supported across New Zealand’s health sector.

Late last year Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall released the Government’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan.

At the time, CAPHRA and other THR advocates raised concerns that vaping – a 95% less harmful alternative and New Zealand’s most effective smoking cessation tool – is largely absent from the Government’s reinvigorated approach to stamping out smoking.

“The smokefree action plan makes tobacco less available and less appealing. It fails, however, to fully acknowledge the positive role vaping has played, and will play, in getting Kiwis off the cancer sticks. That’s a worry because we won’t get there without safer nicotine products,” she says.

CAPHRA says top of mind for the next Director-General of Health is that fact that over 5,000 Kiwis continue to die from smoking-related illnesses every year, and the job to substantially reduce that is by no means done.

“The next Director-General of Health will need to keep a close eye on whether the Government’s vaping regulations and Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan are in fact delivering on their promise. With so many lives at stake, he or she will have no time to waste,” says Nancy Loucas.

Organic medicinal cannabis a huge opportunity for NZ

“New Zealand organically grown and manufactured medicinal cannabis products will be in huge demand internationally, taking the country’s newest industry to a whole new level in the future,” says Carmen Doran, chief executive of Helius Therapeutics.

Her comments follow the Government announcing a $32.2 million joint project with New Zealand’s largest and only organic certified medicinal cannabis grower, Puro, to accelerate the growth of the industry.

A key workstream will see New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis processor and manufacturer, Helius, working alongside Puro on research and development and the creation of an organic manufacturing road map.

“Our ambition is to take Puro’s organically produced high value biomass and manufacture it here in New Zealand to organic certification. Achieving both organically grown and organically manufactured will create a significant premium differentiation for Helius and other local medicinal cannabis companies as well,” says Ms Doran.

Puro and Helius will investigate the necessary steps to enable organic manufacturing in New Zealand, identifying the local cannabis industry’s requirements to meet a national organic manufacturing standard.

“We will help create a playbook for the entire industry to use. It will see Helius, and others, transition to organic manufacturing, after product certification and verification is established. We’ll also help create a roadmap on how best to get these premium products to market,” she says.

Helius and Puro’s commercial relationship is already well established. In January, the two companies signed a multi-million-dollar supply deal – New Zealand’s largest to date. Puro will supply Helius with over 10 tonnes of organic medicinal cannabis over the next five years, securing a local supply chain of premium, organic dried flower for the Auckland-based manufacturer.

“Helius is already extracting Puro’s medicinal cannabis. What’s more, following Puro’s latest harvest, a lot more South Island organic biomass will be processed in the coming months into Kiwi grown and manufactured medicines,” says Ms Doran.

While Puro is Australasia’s largest grower of medicinal cannabis and one of the world’s largest certified organic producers, Helius was New Zealand’s first medicinal cannabis business to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines in July 2021 and will unleash its exporting strategy later this year.

Every New Zealand GP can now prescribe medicinal cannabis for any health condition.

“Right now, you can go to your doctor and get medicinal cannabis products that are New Zealand-made, and that’s really exciting for local patients. However, delivering both organically grown and organically manufactured Kiwi products will be a gamechanger in the future – personifying New Zealand’s ‘100% Pure’ image,” says Ms Doran.

Helius strongly believes the Government’s $13m contribution towards the five-year joint project led by Puro will turbocharge the entire local industry. All parties agree that the country’s creation of a ‘Genetic Breeding and Organic Production Handbook’ will significantly add to jobs, GDP, and export receipts.

The global medicinal cannabis market is expected to grow to over NZ$60 billion by 2025.

“Medicinal cannabis has the potential to become one of the country’s largest export earners. Importantly, this latest $32.2m investment will accelerate its growth and ensure a high-value industry for New Zealand. Equally, it will help deliver the highest quality products for patients here and overseas,” says Carmen Doran.

Vaping advocates launch series to help each other

Keen for more countries to adopt progressive regulations around vaping, Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) advocates will come together over the next two months to brainstorm, download and debate the best ways to advance safer nicotine products globally.

“Advocates from around the world have been asking for seminars on the nuts and bolts of advocacy, what is effective, where to find information, and how to get the message across. This new online series will address a real need out there,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator for the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA).

Dubbed The Advocates Voice ‘Shorts’ Series, five sessions will be livestreamed fortnightly, launching on 26 March and finishing up on 21 May.

“It’s obvious that the war on nicotine is not going away. Advocates need information and support to carry on fighting as THR is here to stay. Nearly 70 countries have already adopted regulatory frameworks on safer nicotine products, leading to dramatic declines in their overall smoking rates. If we are to save millions of more lives, our advocacy needs to be incredibly effective,” says Ms Loucas.

Each of the five programmes will start with a short video presentation, followed by a live Q&A session for advocates to help each other. Those actively campaigning for adults to have access to safer nicotine products in their respective countries will discuss and detail the issues and questions they encounter.

The episodes will run via the CAPHRA and sCOPe YouTube channels at 12:00pm NZT. To view the series promotion, and see the links for each programme, visit: https://youtu.be/4H9CdRGv0zk

The five sessions are ‘The Practice of Self Care’ on 26 March, ‘Culture, Context and Collaboration – Global Advocacy’ on 9 April, ‘Communication – Know Your Audience’ on 23 April, ‘Communication – Delivering the Message’ on 7 May, and ‘Social Media Engagement – Truth will Prevail’ on 21 May.

Most of the Asia Pacific region is turning a corner by including THR in public health policy, with three more key countries now looking to legalise and regulate vaping. The Philippines’ approved legislation is just awaiting presidential sign-off, while Malaysia and Thailand are investigating the best way to overturn their unsuccessful vaping bans.

“In recent years, effective advocacy has been key to many countries adopting a THR approach. Advocates coming together for this initiative and discussing best practice will be time well spent. The aim for us as always is to deliver tangible results, namely saving smokers’ lives,” says Nancy Loucas.

In recent years The Advocates Voice (TAV) has been a regular broadcast. The latest episode discussed Australia’s failed ‘quit or die’ approach, New Zealand’s bold and progressive Smokefree 2025 Action Plan, and gave an update on what is going on in China. To view the 13 March episode, visit https://youtu.be/HnuApgneKPI

A global collaboration of THR consumer groups, sCOPe, has launched a comprehensive library of online panel discussions and presentations. In November 2021, sCOPe broadcast around the clock during COP9 – the 9th Conference of Parties for the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). To access sCOPe’s online library visit, https://bit.ly/319zzkx

Boasting over 14,000 testimonials, CAPHRA is calling on those who’ve quit cigarettes through smoke-free nicotine alternatives to tell their story on www.righttovape.org

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

Medicinal cannabis regulations disguise solid progress

The medicinal cannabis sector is delivering for Kiwi patients. However, most of its successes continue to fly under the radar. This is partly due to regulations which heavily restrict what can be communicated to both doctors and patients, not to mention the public.

Recently, Health Minister Andrew Little acknowledged the sector’s significant progress. Speaking at our annual industry summit, MedCan 2022, hesaid pioneering work producing safe products that consumers want and building a world-class export industry is now underway. This has been achieved despite the medicinal cannabis scheme being less than two years old.

Yes, the quality standards and cost to regulatory compliance have been high. However, high standards are all about protecting patients, giving prescribers confidence, and ensuring New Zealand’s reputation as a world leading, trusted supplier into the future.

At MedCan, Mr Little confirmed 39 active licences are in play, covering cultivation, possession for manufacture and supply activities. Three companies have been granted licences to manufacture medicinal cannabis products and “locally manufactured CBD products are available that cost less than imported products,” he observed.

Days later we read that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders who use cannabis for medicinal purposes are accessing it illegally. Careful analysis by the New Zealand Drug Foundation found that only six percent – or about 17,000 people – obtained cannabis via a doctor’s prescription in 2020.

Likewise, a Massey University study released in January concluded that while the objective of greater access to medicinal cannabis has progressed in some ways, inequitable access to products remains a significant issue for many patients.

Undeniably, more Kiwi-manufactured products need to be verified and volumes increased to ensure patients have a wider range of more cost-effective options. However, not helping the perception is the fact that manufacturers like us are restricted about what we can say. In short, Section 29 of the Medicines Act prohibits us from advertising medicinal cannabis, let alone publicly talking about our products or even clarifying their availability.

Such is the frustration at not being able to sing our sector’s recent successes that it was raised at MedCan. We continue to read news reports about patients’ unable to afford expensive overseas products, yet we can’t meaningfully respond with positive local developments that are now changing the landscape and improving patient equity.

High GMP standards add considerable confidence, but until us manufacturers go through exhaustive clinical trials and our products achieve approved medicines status, we’re almost relying on patients telling other patients.

While it’s claimed only six percent of Kiwi medicinal cannabis users access it legally, let’s not forget that was 2020, with the scheme only taking effect that April. Nearly two years on and we’ve seen big improvements, with Helius becoming first medicinal cannabis business to gain a GMP Licence to Manufacture Medicines last year and set to export this year.

Every GP in New Zealand is now able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for any condition – but let’s remember it’s still a very new frontier of natural care. The endocannabinoid system was only discovered around 30 years ago so wasn’t part of many of our GPs medical training. This is one of the reasons that the Drug Foundation is correct with its observation that it remains hard to get a prescription because many doctors are not comfortable enough to prescribe the products.

Massey University’s study assessing the scheme’s progress also concluded that “there is a need for further investment in general practitioner information and training to improve confidence in prescribing cannabis products.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Thankfully many more Kiwi healthcare professionals are already genuinely curious and actively educating themselves. We know this not only through recent prescription data, but we’re seeing greater registrations to educational resources like mcinfo.com and events such as MedCan, specifically designed to improve prescriber knowledge.

As for prices, I can only point to the Minister’s observations about what locally manufactured CBD products are achieving when compared to the imported brands. Further, he noted at MedCan that “supply and demand economics should see consumer prices come down as more products come to market.”

It has been over three years since Parliament unanimously passed the legislation to enable a local medicinal cannabis sector, finally giving Kiwi patients legal access to quality local products at affordable prices. That rare show of parliamentary unity, helped by overwhelming public support for a local sector, also counted on an economic return for our country.

New Zealand has achieved a notable slice of the international wine market, and I believe there’s no reason why we can’t do the same with medicinal cannabis. The global cannabis market is expected to grow from over $18b in 2020 to over $60b by 2025. Even a sliver of this will be well worth getting, creating more local businesses and jobs in the industry and supporting services.

Like most things, New Zealand is best not to compete on quantity in a commodity market, but we will achieve superior quality. Our product standards are among the highest internationally and our country’s marketing image is strong. What’s more, our research and development success at delivering innovative products and solutions will ensure New Zealand medicinal cannabis comes with a big competitive edge.

While statutory silence hangs over many of us, it’s important for the public to know that our country’s newest sector is now making a real difference for both Kiwi patients and the economy – with 2022 set to deliver even more wins on the ground.

 

Contact: Carmen Doran – Chief Executive at Helius Therapeutics

[email protected] or (022) 673-2146

About Helius

Helius is a focused on medicinal cannabis research, innovation, manufacturing and commercialisation. It is the country’s largest licenced producer, first to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines, and the first medicinal cannabis cultivator to be certified as New Zealand Grown through the Buy NZ Made Campaign. The company operates a state-of-the-art, integrated facility in Auckland with indoor controlled growing systems, extraction site, an advanced cannabinoid research laboratory and manufacturing. Helius is setting the standard for effective and accessible medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand and beyond.

Survey proves non-smoking youth are not taking up vaping

Smoking among New Zealand’s young teenagers has fallen to its lowest levels in over 20 years, while very few non-smoking students take up vaping, according to a significant survey of secondary school students.

“Vaping rates might be up, but these are overwhelmingly young people who were smoking in the first place,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA).

“Importantly, this survey confirms that vaping is not hooking non-smokers, as just three percent of those who vape daily have never smoked. What’s more, while many may try it, very few ever become regular vapers,” she says.

The ASH Year 10 Snapshot surveyed 26,000 Kiwi students aged 13 and 14 years old on their smoking and vaping behaviour and attitudes. The survey found just 1.3% of year 10s are smoking daily, down from 2% in 2019.

“We don’t want school students vaping. However, let’s not forget that this 2021 survey was conducted when the Government’s regulations were still relatively new. The full impacts of the marketing ban and strictly cementing the purchase age at 18 will be seen in future surveys,” says Ms Loucas.

CAPHRA says New Zealand’s adoption of relatively progressive vaping legislation and regulation is enabling both young and old smokers to quit deadly cigarettes. In fact, the country’s goal of Smokefree 2025 – where 5% or less of the general population smoke – is looking increasingly likely to be achieved.

“The University of Otago continues to peddle that the Government’s approach is doing little to dampen vaping’s popularity among our youth. They totally ignore that New Zealand’s non-smoking youth are simply not taking up vaping and just over one percent of young teens now smoke daily. That is what a successful Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) public health strategy looks like,” she says.

Ms Loucas says the 67 countries which have adopted regulatory frameworks on vaping have all registered a dramatic decline in smoking prevalence. In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines is set to regulate vaping, with Malaysia and Thailand also closely looking into it.

“Otago academics can continue railing against vaping but they’re increasingly a minority, with the European Parliament the latest to formally recognise THR as a public health policy and the benefits of vaping for smokers keen to quit,” she says.

Ms Loucas says Otago is not only pushing to ultimately ban vaping but is now calling for nicotine to be phased out of New Zealand society all together.

“Nicotine may be addictive, but it won’t kill you. These academics need to focus their efforts on combustible tobacco, after all it’s the smoke that’s the main source of cancer-causing toxic chemicals. No one can understand why Otago’s Department of Public Health obsesses over a practice that’s saving millions of smokers’ lives worldwide and is deemed by Public Health England as 95% less harmful than smoking,” says Nancy Loucas.

A global collaboration of THR consumer groups, sCOPe, has launched a comprehensive library of online panel discussions and presentations. In November 2021, sCOPe broadcast around the clock during COP9 – the 9th Conference of Parties for the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). To access sCOPe’s online library visit, https://bit.ly/319zzkx

Boasting over 14,000 testimonials, CAPHRA is calling on those who’ve quit cigarettes through smoke-free nicotine alternatives to tell their story onwww.righttovape.org

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

Landmark agreement paves way for NZ grown cannabis medicines

New Zealand’s two largest medicinal cannabis companies have signed a supply contract that will provide Kiwis further access to locally made medicines and pave the way for international export success.

The five year multi-million-dollar deal between Marlborough-based cultivator Puro and Auckland-based Helius Therapeutics is New Zealand’s largest to date.

Under the partnership, Puro will supply over 10 tonnes of organic medicinal cannabis to Helius over the next five years, the equivalent of approximately five shipping containers of dried cannabis flower. 

Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics, says the partnership is an important milestone for the sunrise industry in New Zealand.

“It gives Helius a secure local supply chain of premium, organic medicinal cannabis which we process into 100% New Zealand-grown, manufactured, and branded medicines to support our future products.”

Ms Doran expects New Zealand made cannabis medicines will be popular, with Helius unleashing its exporting strategy this year.

“Both Puro and Helius are driven to deliver safe, quality and affordable NZ-made medicinal cannabis to Kiwi patients. While Kiwis are new to cannabis medicines, we expect having a New Zealand made product will give them confidence and greater choice. At the same time Puro and Helius can work together to deliver into key global export markets.”

Landmark agreement paves way for NZ grown cannabis medicines

Puro’s Managing Director Tim Aldridge says the agreement is a massive win for the wider industry.

“It is significant in its size and scale, and in what it signals for the future. It’s the start of a long-term commercial partnership between Helius and Puro, where we’ll work together to develop the local industry, establishing pathways for an exciting new export industry for New Zealand,” says Mr Aldridge.

Puro is the largest cannabis grower in New Zealand and its outdoor crops were recently granted organic status from New Zealand certifier BioGro.

“We’re the only certified organic grower in Australasia so we’ve had huge interest in our product as a result. We expect to be able to export New Zealand’s first shipment in 2022,” he says.

Helius is already extracting Puro’s medicinal cannabis at its East Auckland facility. However, more will be supplied after the South Island cultivator’s forthcoming March harvest.

In July 2021, Helius was issued with the local industry’s first GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) Licence to Manufacture Medicines by the Ministry of Health.

Importantly, Ms Doran says, New Zealand’s GMP is recognised throughout Europe which opens considerable export possibilities, in countries such as Germany.

“The global medicinal cannabis market is expected to grow to over NZ$60 billion by 2025 so this industry has the potential to become one of New Zealand’s largest export earners. This supply agreement reflects just how far our industry has come in a few short years and gives Helius the necessary scale to take premium Kiwi grown and made products to the world.”

“This agreement will also enable the sharing of best practice and R&D for future products and provide an opportunity for New Zealand to become a medicinal cannabis research centre of excellence,” says Ms Doran.

Puro was recently named Cultivator of the Year at the 2021 Australian Cannabis Awards.

“This agreement tops off a great year for the Puro team. We set out three years ago with a belief that New Zealanders deserve access to premium medicinal cannabis products, grown and made right here in New Zealand. This agreement will see that vision come to life, as well as taking premium New Zealand grown and made medicinal cannabis into global markets,” says Tim Aldridge.

Puro and Helius Therapeutics are sponsors of MedCan Summit 2022, which will take place on 10 and 11 February at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland.

About Helius

Helius is focused on medicinal cannabis research, innovation, manufacturing and commercialisation. It is the country’s largest licenced producer, the first to achieve a GMP Licence for Manufacturing Medicines, and the first medicinal cannabis cultivator to be certified as New Zealand Grown through the Buy NZ Made Campaign. The company operates a state-of-the-art, integrated facility in Auckland with indoor controlled growing systems, extraction site, an advanced cannabinoid research laboratory and manufacturing. Helius is setting the standard for effective and accessible medicinal cannabis products in New Zealand and beyond.

www.helius.co.nz

About Puro

Puro is a specialist contract grower of premium medicinal cannabis, with its focus on cultivation, seed production and cannabis genetic breeding and research. Puro is Australasia’s largest grower of medicinal cannabis and one of the world’s largest certified organic producers.

Puro has two premium growing sites in Marlborough – with high-CBD organic medicinal cannabis growing at its Kēkerengū site and high-THC medical cannabis growing at Puro’s indoor facility in Waihopai. The company has constructed the country’s largest medicinal cannabis drying facility in Kēkerengū, as well as a hi-tech research centre and cannabis breeding facility at Waihopai.

Puro sells its pharmaceutical-grade cannabis to extraction partners and GMP manufacturers in NZ and globally.

www.puro.co.nz

Kiwi vape brands increasingly key to achieving smokefree

Good on the Government for re-energising New Zealand’s commitment to Smokefree Aotearoa 2025. Increasingly dominant Kiwi vaping brands are also proving key to squeezing Big Tobacco, says two of the country’s leading vaping entrepreneurs.

Their comments follow Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall today releasing the Government’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan.

“The plan makes tobacco less available and less appealing. It fails, however, to properly promote vaping which is proven to be 95% less harmfuland is New Zealand’s most effective smoking cessation tool,” says Jonathan Devery – co-owner of the largest Kiwi-owned vape companies, Alt New Zealand and VAPO.

The latest New Zealand Health Survey, released last week, showed that the rate of Kiwis smoking daily has plummeted from 11.4% in the 2019-2000 survey to 9.4% now. The decade-old national smokefree goal will be achieved when less than 5% of all adults’ smoke daily.

Both ex-smokers, Mr Devery and fellow business partner Ben Pryor say the latest survey confirms that more and more Kiwi smokers are making the switch to vaping. Such success, however, is barely acknowledged, let alone promoted, in

“As well as crushing tobacco sales, this plan should’ve ramped up the support for publicly-funded ‘Vape to QuitStrong’ smoking cessation programmes. For many years these programmes have been backed by the Ministry of Health, DHBs, and Maori health organisations because they’ve worked incredibly well. Sadly, however, there’s no significant expansion for them in this action plan,” says Mr Devery.

He says without the right incentives and programmes in place, Maori and Pasifika will not be smokefree for several decades. What’s more, 5,000 Kiwis will continue to die every year from smoking-related illnesses if more do not switch to vaping – the safer and less expensive alternative.

“It’s good news the Government is getting tougher on Big Tobacco. This is long overdue because as it stands vaping is more heavily regulated. It’s crazy you can walk into a service station and access every cigarette brand under the sun, yet you cannot buy the most popular vape flavours. Despite this, vaping has well and truly taken over,” says Mr Devery.

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

“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 and locally made alternatives like ours have been rapidly on the rise.

“Many Kiwis prefer to buy local and from a company that doesn’t also sell combustible cigarettes. In fact, we’re seeing Big Tobacco effectively getting rolled by an independent Kiwi company which now has an 80% share of the vaping market in general retail. That’s good for New Zealand and great for Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” he says.

Jonathan Devery says New Zealand is not only on a path to smokefree, but a future where there is no need for Big Tobacco companies to operate in the country.

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

February’s major medicinal cannabis summit gearing up

Just two months away, New Zealand’s largest medicinal cannabis summit is well and truly gearing up.

February’s MedCan 2022, which was postponed from October due to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, builds on the success of the 2020 summit and offers the chance for the industry and medical community to come together after a year of uncertainty.

“MedCan 2022 is happening this coming February within the Covid framework level we’re in. We’ve designed comprehensive and compliant plans for each of the three traffic light scenarios,” says Dr Zahra Champion, Executive Director of BioTechNZ and MedCan Summit 2022 organiser.

“If Auckland is in the orange or green level of the Covid Protection Framework, which we expect it to be, the summit will take place in person with no physical distancing restrictions. It will also be streamed online. However, if Auckland is in the red level, MedCan will still take place, but it will be a virtual online event for everyone,” she says.

February’s major medicinal cannabis summit gearing up

As part of the Government’s protection framework, everyone who attends MedCan 2022 in person will be required to be fully vaccinated and present their vaccine pass. Those who are not fully vaccinated at the time are invited to participate in the event virtually.

The more than 30 international and local speakers presenting at the summit include scientists, medical experts, clinicians, entrepreneurs, investors, and policymakers.

“Both prescriber education and product affordability are key to patients accessing medicinal cannabis. The good news is we’re making great progress on both fronts. Two cost effective, quality locally-manufactured products are now available, and a large number of doctors will be attending MedCan 2022,” says Dr Champion.

The summit will feature a dedicated one-day Healthcare Professionals Forum. The Forum is endorsed by The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and The Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand.

The event’s early-bird pricing ends on Friday, 17 December. Discounts are also available for BioTechNZ and Tech Alliance members.

Foundation sponsor is Helius Therapeutics. Gold sponsor is Eqalis, with Silver sponsors Elysian and CannaPlus+. Puro, Callaghan Innovation and Shimadzu are Bronze sponsors.

With Cannasouth and Philstic now recently confirmed as exhibitors, the two-day summit includes a MedCan Exhibition showcasing medicinal cannabis companies, suppliers, supporters, and start-ups from across the industry.

February’s major medicinal cannabis summit gearing up

Carmen Doran, Chief Executive of Helius Therapeutics, says in addition to medicinal cannabis education, MedCan importantly promotes connections and collaboration.

“If New Zealand is to succeed in the fast-growing international medicinal cannabis market, Kiwi innovation and sector collaboration are key. Helius is proud of the exclusive industry and education partnerships we’ve created and look forward to forging even closer relationships with other stakeholders at the summit,” says Ms Doran.

Detailing the Industry and Science streams, and the Healthcare Professionals Forum, MedCan’s two-day programme is available on MedCan’s website: 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.

For more information on the summit, please email [email protected]

www.medcansummit.co.nz

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

Attached: Dr Zahra Champion speaking at MedCan Summit 2020; Attendees at MedCan 2020; and MedCan 2022 imagery.