Vaping enthusiasts in New Zealand have it tough. Although it is quite easy enough to go out and buy a vaporizer they have to start searching the internet every time they start running low on e-liquid because its sale is illegal in New Zealand.
In a recent interview, Dr Murray Winiata admitted this ridiculous situation has not deterred him from recommending vaping as a quit-smoking technique.
The 39-year-old GP from South Auckland used to be a smoker himself so he knows how hard it is to quit. He also knows what an effective quit-smoking technique vaping can be because its the method he used to say goodbye to his own habit.
Speaking to the Herald, Dr Winiata said: “They [vaporizers] are the only discussion you can have with someone who says they don’t want to quit. I say, ‘You may want to consider this as a safer alternative to smoking’—otherwise it’s the end of the conversation.”
Dr Winiata is not a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Many medical experts are aware of the value vaporizers have as a quit-smoking technique. A report produced by Health England states vaping e-cigarettes is 95% safer than smoking traditional tobacco products.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health sees things differently. Vaporizers do not even get a mention in the official medical guidelines on how to quit smoking.
“The Ministry’s position is really disappointing,” Dr Winiata said, “It produces barriers to accessing nicotine liquid.”
The Ministry is sticking by its precautionary approach though, stating such a stance is necessary because of the lack of evidence to support vaping as a quit-smoking technique.
Public Health experts in New Zealand have come up with a number of suggestions they feel may help smokers to quit. One of the most popular ones appears to be raising tobacco taxes. So instead of being offered a cheaper and safer alternative to smoking, people who find it impossible to quit will be hit harder in the pocket.
Dr Winiata says several of his patients who used vaping as a quit-smoking technique followed in his footsteps and continue to live tobacco-free lives. Meanwhile Rebecca Ruwhiu-Collins from charity Sisters of Mercy states many people who cannot quit are already struggling due to the cost the existing taxes.
“They are struggling as it is now with their tobacco addiction,” she said. “The taxes are really hurting these families.”
Ruwhiu-Collins cited the case of a couple who were spending $200 per week on tobacco, but reduced their spend to just $15 by making the switch to e-liquid and using vaping as a quit-smoking technique.
Like Dr Winiata, Ruwhiu-Collins is urging the New Zealand Government to sanction sales of e-liquids to adults at pharmacies and other regulated vendors.