Vaping and e-cigarettes should be regulated and encouraged to help people stop smoking, says National, with one MP urging the Government to "save time" adopt her proposed law.
"The Ministry of Health has highlighted the potential for vaping to be used as a smoking cessation tool to help achieve Smokefree 2025, and yet the Government will not move to make e-cigarettes and vaping devices more accessible," MP Nicky Wagner said.
It comes as 2019 saw the yearly excise tax slapped on tobacco. Since January 2010, the Government has increased tobacco excise by at least CPI plus 10 per cent each year. The current series of tax increases are scheduled to end in 2020.
The tax has seen the price of a 25-pack of cigarettes creep towards $40, nearly four times the 2006 cost of $11.95.
Ms Wagner said the recent tax increase was another incentive for smokers to quit, but she criticised the lack of accessibility of e-cigarettes and vaping devices by Government.
"These year-on-year increases have achieved their purpose in reducing smoking rates and now we must help our most ingrained smokers who are not put off by price by providing an alternative like vaping," she said.
Ms Wagner has a Member's Bill that would create specific regulations for e-cigarettes.
“Currently, vaping liquid and devices are treated the same as tobacco products," she said.
"These regulations would prohibit sales to under 18s, allow the ability to encourage vaping on tobacco products, ensure there are appropriate rules around advertising, set quality standards, require the Ministry of Health to approve products and prohibit vaping in smokefree areas."
She said the Government should "save time" by adopting her bill, rather than introduce "similar" legislation later this year.
"This is the time of year when people make choices to better their lives, and we need to give smokers the ability and the options to make those choices when it comes to quitting. The Government must respond to the call for alternatives like vaping."
Figures from the Ministry of Health showed smoking rates are slowly dropping. Sixteen per cent of people were current smokers in a 2016/17 health survey. It had dropped by 2 per cent from the 2011/12 survey results.
However, Māori and Pacific smoking rates were higher, with Māori women 6 per cent more likely to smoke than Māori men.
In a report by the Ministry of Health, it says 38 per cent of Māori women aged between 18-24 indicated they were smokers.
"The biggest change in smoking status among Māori females happen at a fairly young age, particularly between the ages of 15 and 24 years. At 18 years of age, two in three had never smoked. At age 24 years, only one in three had never smoked," the report states.
About 350 deaths per year are estimated to be from exposure to second-hand smoke in New Zealand.