New Zealand expert advises Australian policymakers on vaping

Posted on February 14, 2024 By Colin

DURING A WEEK-LONG VISIT TO AUSTRALIA, Action for Smokefree 2025 (ASH) has been engaging with Australian policymakers to develop a best-practice vaping regulatory framework.

Smoking and vaping policies were very similar in Australia and New Zealand until 2020 when the four major political parties in New Zealand accepted vaping as an important tool to accelerate the decline in smoking rates.

Since 2020, New Zealand has had a regulated vaping market that allowed a wide range of vapes to be sold as adult consumer products.

The New Zealand Health Surveys report that adult smoking rates have declined by 49% in the last 5 years from 15.1% in 2018 to 8.3% in 2023.

In contrast, smoking in Australian adults has declined marginally from 12.3% to 11.8% in the same period.

“The only policy difference between New Zealand and Australia during this period has been that we allow nicotine vaping sales to compete with cigarettes, whereas Australia has taken a prescription model that puts much safer vaping out of the reach of most people.

The outcome is that New Zealand has seen unprecedented drops in smoking as people switch whilst smoking rates in Australia stagnate” ASH Director Ben Youdan says.

“The heartbreaking reality is that the current restrictive policy in Australia is keeping people smoking, and the cost of this policy will be counted in thousands of smoking deaths that could have been prevented.”

Youdan also admits that New Zealand has not got it 100% right, and encourages Australian policymakers to learn from both New Zealand’s successes and failures.

“New Zealand was very slow to regulate vaping and similar to Australia, we saw a rapid rise in youth use in the years up until 2021, but then we finally had some legislation put in place.”

After controls on marketing, sales, nicotine limits, and access for people under 18 were implemented, the proportion of Year 10 students vaping decreased significantly for the second year running

Australia also has a large black market for vaping because of its severely restricted availability of legal vaping products. New Zealand doesn’t have a vaping black market

“What has stood out during my visit is learning that despite the approach of effectively banning vaping outside of prescription use, youth vaping rates in Australia have also risen to similar levels to New Zealand. It’s especially worrying to hear that this is almost exclusively the result of illicit products, with no ability to regulate or control how vaping is used as a public health tool”.

Australia has an opportunity to learn from New Zealand’s success in rapidly reducing smoking through harm reduction, and to avoid the mistakes we have made in being slow to protect young people

“Rather than looking at the evidence, Australia’s policy appears to be an irrational ban on much safer nicotine products that are saving lives in New Zealand, yet leaving cigarettes for sale everywhere. It simply prolongs the life of the tobacco industry and leaves nicotine users with only the most dangerous choice. Cigarette companies should be thanking the Australian health minister for protecting their patch. The outcomes of this are genuinely tragic.” Mr Youdan says.

“ASH strongly recommends Australian policymakers visit New Zealand as part of a diligent policy process and see for themselves how better alternatives to the prescription model prevent avoidable smoking related deaths & disease.”

What is ASH NZ?

ASH – Action for Smokefree 2025 is an incorporated society that has been campaigning since 1983 to achieve the vision to eliminate the death and harm caused by tobacco.  It is a leading independent campaign voice for high quality tobacco control measures and undertakes research including the ASH Year 10 Survey - the largest survey of its type in New Zealand.

ASH is independently funded by our members, donations, and grant funding.  ASH does not take funds from tobacco, pharmaceutical, nicotine or vaping industries.

According to the ASH Year 10 Survey, the proportion of Year 10 students (14-15 years of age) vaping regularly has decreased significantly for the second year running in the annual ASH survey of Kiwi youth, dropping by almost 2 percent (18.2% in 2022, 16.4% in 2023).


BEN YOUDAN: +64 21 247 3027


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