Government moved too slowly on regulating e-cigarettes, lead respiratory doc warns

A lead respiratory doctor is warning that too many New Zealanders are vaping, wrongly believing e-cigarettes are safe.

Dr Stuart Jones, from Middlemore Hospital, says doctors have been gathering for regular meetings this year, and vaping is often brought up.

"There seems to be a common misconception that vaping is safe on the airways and this is most certainly not true," he says.

Vaping was legalised in New Zealand early last year - seen as a safer alternative to smoking.

But Dr Jones cautions it still comes with health risks, which include damaging airways, causing inflammation and loss of lung function.

"[E-cigarettes] may be better than smoking... but when you consider that's the most destructive consumer product ever introduced into the country, it's not a massive hurdle to get over," says Dr Jones.

While it's illegal for those under 18 to buy e-cigarettes, the market is unregulated.

The latest statistics show 28 per cent of teenagers have tried e-cigarettes, and in the United States authorities appear to be regretting their relaxed stance on vaping.

The Government here hopes to bring in new rules next year, which include banning vaping in restaurants, schools and workplaces, and restricting flavours and advertising of products.

But Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa says vaping's still a vital tool in reaching the country's 2025 smokefree goal.

"We have to remember there are about 5000 smoking-related deaths in Aotearoa New Zealand today. So we will have to ensure that we do as much as we can as a Government to save lives," she says.

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Dr Stuart Jones says “the horse has bolted” because parents believe it’s safe – when it isn’t. Source: 1 NEWS