New Zealand hoped to achieve a number of objectives for World Smokefree Day:
- raising awareness and contributing to the achievement of the Smokefree 2025 goal
- raising awareness of the smokefree kaupapa with the underlying objectives of reducing exposure to second-hand smoke and increasing quit attempts
- enabling continuity and consistency of messaging and creative across the country
- building on and complementing current work in tobacco control
Part of this involved the start of a new campaign for Hāpai te Hauora and the Cancer Society, encouraging a national conversation around tobacco supply in our communities by under the banner of “Stop the Stock”.
Alt New Zealand’s Ben Pryor believes that more could have been done to overcome the myths surrounding vaping, that he believes continue to hamper the country’s smokefree aspiration.
“We are all for World Smokefree Day and Smokefree New Zealand 2025. Sadly, however, too many decision-makers up and down the country still fail to understand that vaping is absolutely critical to society becoming tobacco-free,” says Ben Pryor, co-owner and co-founder of Alt New Zealand.
“It’s great that vaping is increasingly part of the World Smokefree Day discourse as vaping is positively contributing to the country’s falling smoking rates. However, achieving total smokefree status will only be achieved if vaping is completely brought out of the shadows and some ongoing myths are busted once and for all.”
Ben Pryor and his business partner Jonathan Devery have been astonished at some city and district councils’ decisions recently to ban vaping as part of their smokefree policies.
“It’s alarming that we continue to see so much snobbery and ignorance around vaping. Until some people in decision-making roles get over themselves and do some research, New Zealand will struggle to become smoke-free. It’s as simple as that,” says Mr Pryor.
The vaping entrepreneurs say there are six key myths about vaping that need to be busted.
#1 Myth: Vaping is not much better than smoking with second-hand risks
Public Health England (PHE) strongly stands by the Expert Independent Evidence Review it commissioned in 2015 that concluded vaping is 95% less harmful than tobacco. What’s more, while there’s a potential nuisance factor to bystanders, PHE published extensive research last year that concluded ‘there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders.’
#2 Myth: Vaping gives you ‘popcorn lung’
‘Popcorn lung’ is a disease attributed to high levels of exposure to the chemical diacetyl. Combustible cigarettes expose a daily user to around 750 times more diacetyl than the highest level of diacetyl found in e-liquid. Cancer Research UK states ‘there have been no cases of popcorn lung reported’ from vaping to date - in the world!
#3 Myth: Vaping is a gateway to smoking
A cabinet paper to New Zealand Government late last year concluded ‘there is no robust evidence’ that vaping acts as a gateway to smoking. The official advice also said the British Medical Association concludes that current data on vaping and smoking does not support a gateway effect, noting that smoking has continued to decline while vaping has become increasingly available.
#4 Myth: Vaping marketing and flavours are seducing young teenagers
Vaping by 14 and 15-year olds remains low and is falling. Comprehensive research the Government released in April revealed vaping isn't an issue among early teens in New Zealand. Surveying almost 29,000 Year 10 students, it found just 1.8% of students vaped each day, marking a slight drop from 1.9% in 2017. While only 0.5% of students who have never smoked, vape daily – a drop from 0.8 per cent in 2017.
#5 Myth: Vaping is no more effective than other ways to quit smoking
In January the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed vaping is incredibly effective for smokers wanting to quit. This followed a clinical trial which involved almost 900 smokers. It found that nearly twice as many e-cigarette users were smoke-free after a year, compared to people using nicotine-replacement products such as patches, gum, lozenges and sprays.
#6 Myth: The Government doesn’t like vaping whatsoever
The Associate Health Minister recently announced the Health Promotion Agency is launching ‘a public campaign aimed at supporting smokers to successfully switch to vaping.’ The Government openly acknowledges the health and economic benefits of vaping for those wanting to quit cigarettes as it drafts its Smokefree Environments (Vaping) Amendment Bill to be tabled in Parliament in the coming months.
Mr Pryor says: “Despite all the hard-scientific evidence readily available, some people still manage to peddle the claim that there are no long-term studies to prove vaping is safer. That too is a huge myth that is completely busted by significant research.”
“While others have been highlighting the dangers of smoking on World Smokefree Day, we strongly believe there’s a wider attitudinal danger that is also hindering us from ever reaching smokefree status.”
“The real concern in 2019 is not around people not fully understanding the risks of smoking. They do. Rather, today’s concern is that too many people still don’t understand that vaping is the best and only real chance we have to quit tobacco,” he says.