Vape and mirrors

Toby Fitzsimmons
Insights Newsletter
6 September, 2019

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times” – Mark Twain

Despite the “ease” of giving up smoking, the government wishes to make it harder by smoking out an alternative, healthier way of intaking nicotine – vaping.

Legislation is due to be tabled to ban vaping ads – disregarding the logic that more smoking hot models vaping on billboards would mean more people quitting cigarettes. In fact, recent studies in the US suggest that banning vaping adverts on TV could cut the cigarette quitting rate by up to 16%.

Our own Associate Minister of Health, Jenny Salesa, lit up a tobacco company for promoting vaping by targeting poor smokers with free e-cigarettes. Salesa said it was “absolutely not [okay].” What about real estate agents targeting homebuyers, luxury car dealers targeting rich people and universities targeting students? Perhaps all ads should go up in smoke.

But then, if the government wants to crack down on vaping maybe there’s something wrong with vaping. There’s no smoke without a fire… except there is vape.

So to hedge its bets, the government runs a website with taxpayer money to promote vaping as a healthy alternative to smoking while snuffing out companies for doing the same for free.

With these mixed messages on the safety of e-cigarettes, consumers are in a haze, which does not smell of strawberry shortcake.

To clear up the smog, Salesa was asked on The AM Show whether vaping is safe.  After some shilly-shallying, she said vaping is at most 95% as safe as smoking. But the actual Public Health England statistic says vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking.

Barely perceptible through the smoke and mirrors surrounding vaping, the government’s motive seems unintelligible.

When asked what was in vape liquid, Salesa said “nicotine”, “flavours” and “various things that the folks who are manufacturing vaping products put in.” Actually, the manufacturing folks use propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine. (No, I am not available to work as the Minister for Health).

With little evidence of vaping doing harm, vaping’s valid use as a quitting tool, and the 5,000 deaths caused by smoking every year in New Zealand, the government needs to consider that thing called evidence-based policy.

Perhaps the Minister misunderstood Mark Twain. If vaping caused people to quit once rather than a thousand times, then it must make quitting harder?

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