“The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) needs to get with the programme. It’s called Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates).
Her comments follow the RNZCGP pushing for vapes to be restricted to pharmacies or available through Quitline, like nicotine patches.
“If we medicalise vaping, like Australia has, 5,000 Kiwis would continue to die of smoking-related illnesses and we’d fail to reach Smokefree 2025. New Zealand’s Parliament and Ministry of Health have literally just gone through years of investigating, legislating and regulating vaping. Restricted retail access is where we landed,” says Ms Loucas.
She says Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration can get all heavy handed with vaping but all they’re doing is stalling Australian smokers from quitting the “cancer sticks”.
“The RNZCGP needs to follow the science and the anecdotal evidence. Instead, they seem to be listening too much to the increasingly discredited World Health Organisation and its anti-vaping campaign which is costing millions of smokers’ lives around the world,” she says.
CAPHRA says RNZCGP can do its best to muddy the waters around vaping but in reality over 70 countries have now legalised and regulated safer nicotine products with considerable success.
New Zealand’s THR strategy is working well. Last year, it was revealed that New Zealand’s smoking rate had fallen to an historic low of 8% of adults smoking daily. It has more than halved in the past decade.
The smokefree advocate says New Zealand’s success is highlighted by the fact that Dr Ayesha Verrall was recently appointed as New Zealand’s Health Minister. The news was viewed positively for the country’s collective effort to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025
“Dr Verrall understands better than anyone that to eradicate the harm from combustible tobacco, viable safer nicotine products must be available for smokers to successfully make the switch. Well policed restrictions are the answer, not medicalisation,” says Ms Loucas.
As for University of Otago’s harping that vaping was being heavily marketed at young New Zealanders, Ms Loucas says vaping products come with a strictly enforced R18 purchase age. Further, all advertising, marketing and sponsorship activity has been banned, with packaging and displays heavily restricted.
She says thankfully Dr Verrall has stayed staunch and kept her eye on the prize. She has not tried to relitigate the 2020 vaping legislation despite pressure from lobby groups.
“New Zealand’s focus must remain 100% on combustible tobacco – the real scourge and killer in our society,” says Ms Loucas.
CAPHRA points to Dr Verrall’s comments last year, when she reiterated the importance of providing Kiwi adults’ access to safer nicotine products: ‘We need to continue supporting people who smoke tobacco to successfully switch to less harmful products,’ said the then Associate Health Minister.
“New Zealanders are on totally onboard with their nation’s 12-year-long smokefree goal. The Ministry of Health openly views vaping as key to achieving that, as does the Minister. It’s time the RNZCGP got up with the programme,” says Nancy Loucas.