Two cheers for New Zealand
Earlier this week, New Zealand's Ministry of Health published a consultation document, Policy Options for the Regulation of Electronic Cigarettes. At present, e-cigarettes are legally available to buy in New Zealand, but liquid that contains nicotine is not - somewhat defeating the purpose of a product that was initially designed to deliver nicotine in a safer way than tobacco cigarettes. The NZ government's proposals would allow the sale of nicotine-containing liquids for the first time.
Of course, vapers in New Zealand have not gone without nicotine up until now - they will have bought such liquids from overseas via the internet. But the lack of availability of nicotine liquids over the counter limits the ability to choose and makes it much harder for those who want to experiment with e-cigarettes for the first time. This new proposal would therefore be a major boost for both current and would-be vapers.
The fact that the government has changed its position is testament to the hard work of vaping campaigners both in New Zealand and the UK. The fact that official health bodies in the UK have argued that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking tobacco is clearly an influence on governments in other countries. That stance has been the product of years of hard work by campaigners, who deserve hearty congratulations. This latest news will also be a boost after the miserable, evidence-dodging decision by the EU to enact Article 20 of the revised Tobacco Products Directive, which places serious restrictions on e-cigarettes.
So why only two cheers? Sadly, the new proposals also say that 'advertising of e-cigarettes would be restricted and the use of e-cigarettes would be prohibited in areas defined as smokefree in the SFEA' (the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990). If e-cigarettes are relatively safe - and they are - then why not allow them to be advertised widely? Worse still, the shadow of smoking bans continues to affect vapers. Across the world, governments and businesses are applying the same indoor bans on vaping as they do to smoking. So while the new proposals are a welcome extension of choice, they still deny vapers the opportunity to enjoy nicotine wherever they choose. The evidence of harm from passive smoking is thin to say the least. There is absolutely no evidence of harm from 'passive vaping'.
That's why health arguments alone are never enough when it comes to government interference in our lives - the need to defend and extend the right to choose how we live our lives is paramount. As it stands, these proposals do nothing for those who want to enjoy nicotine in the pub - and does nothing to help struggling bar owners, either. So two cheers for New Zealand, but the need to tackle draconian legislation like the SFEA remains vital for the freedom of both smokers and vapers.