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Hot topic | New Vaping Legislation Important, but Evaluation Will be Crucial

New legislation governing the sale and availability of vaping products will help ensure people who smoke but who wish to switch to a less harmful option can access these products. Importantly, it will also protect non-users by reducing experimentation among young people, say smokefree experts from the University of Otago.

Professors Janet Hoek and Richard Edwards, and Andrew Waa, co-direct ASPIRE 2025, one of the University of Otago’s Research Centres; their work identifies, tests and evaluates measures designed to achieve the Government’s Smokefree 2025 goal.

They welcome implementation of the first provisions from the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020, which come into effect today. Extending smokefree areas, such as schools, workplaces and public transport, to include vaping will provide much needed clarity and protect non-users.

“We know from research into smoking that, when people could smoke anywhere, smoking was seen as a normal and socially accepted practice, which increased the risk of experimentation among young people. Reducing young people’s exposure to vaping is important in shifting perceptions of vaping as an accepted recreational practice and reframing it as a tool that could help people who smoke to switch to a less harmful option.”

The researchers say restricting the full range of flavoured vaping products to specialist R18 stores strikes a good balance.

“The Act enables people who smoke to access varied flavours from specialist stores while minimising children’s access to flavours known to be popular among young people.”

The researchers see measures disallowing advertising and sponsorship as particularly important components of the new legislation.

“Tobacco companies, many of which make vaping products, have used aggressive marketing to promote vaping to young people. We have seen experimentation and use of vaping products grow among young people, and a growing proportion of whom have become addicted to nicotine.”

The researchers call on the Government to ensure there is a robust evaluation of the new legislation.

“It is critical that we monitor how these measures affect people who smoke and young non-smokers. We hope careful monitoring will show use of vaping products occurs mainly among people who smoke and who want to reduce the risks they face, and not among children and young people. If we do not see vaping experimentation and regular use fall among young people, the Government will need to introduce stronger measures. Monitoring is also needed to assess whether vaping is helping Māori and Pacific people who smoke to quit, as reducing smoking among these peoples is the highest priority to achieve a Smokefree Aotearoa 2025.”

Contact:               Professor Janet Hoek (021 150 6934)