The Ministry of Health’s latest stop-smoking guidelines are disappointing. They do not include the vape option for smoking cessation providers to discuss with Kiwis keen to quit cigarettes, says New Zealand’s leading Tobacco Harm Reduction consumer group.
‘The New Zealand Guidelines for Helping People to Stop Smoking’ acknowledge that vaping can contribute to Smokefree 2025, and it’s a less harmful way of delivering nicotine when compared with traditional cigarettes.
“Disappointingly, however, Ministry officials struggle to apply a holistic wraparound approach to reaching the smokefree goal. They cannot seem to get over the fact that ‘vaping products are not approved stop-smoking medications’,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
Ms Loucas says the Ministry of Health continues to push less effective pharmaceutical smoking cessation tools such as nicotine patches, gum, and lozenges. It fails to highlight the successful non-pharma option of vaping. Instead, she says, it seems more about doing the same thing yet expecting a different result.
“Predictably, these latest government guidelines for our healthcare professionals place the focus on nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) prescription. That would be fine if NRT was just as effective as vaping in getting Kiwis off cigarettes, but it’s nowhere near as successful,” she says.
The guidelines, in fact, make clear that evidence shows ‘vaping products containing nicotine are effective in increasing long-term quit rates by 69%, compared with NRT.’
“Not only has vaping proven itself to be an effective smoking cessation tool, but it’s incredibly safe with Public Health England concluding it’s 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes,” she says.
Notably, Ms Loucas says the latest guidance repeatedly acknowledges vaping’s relative safety. Nowhere more so than its declaration that ‘vaping products may be considered for pregnant women who have been unable to quit using other methods.’
“Vaping has been critical to New Zealand’s overall smoking rate falling to a record low 12%. Last year Parliament legitimised and regulated vaping, and our District Health Boards and Maori health vape-to-quit programmes continue to achieve amazing results. This latest guidance, however, sadly all but ignores vaping as an incredibly effective option for smokers in Aotearoa,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA says if the Ministry of Health was keen to tackle the Smokefree Aotearoa challenge, as much as its 2021 update purports, it would support vaping unequivocally as substantial international evidence does. She says the Ministry needs to take a leaf out of the United Kingdom’s book.
“Alarmingly, 29% of Māori and 18% of Pacific people still smoke every day. The rates also remain unacceptably high for people with mental health and addictions, and people living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas. Yet with the best solution staring us right in the face, the Ministry of Health, at best, sits on the fence.
“These may be the official guidelines for health professionals to consider. However, for Kiwi smokers desperate to quit deadly cigarettes, and for whom the prescribed NRT therapies have failed, talking to vapers about what really works is their best guide,” says Nancy Loucas.
To view ‘The New Zealand Guidelines for Helping People to Stop Smoking’, please visit: https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/new-zealand-guidelines-helping-people-stop-smoking-update