Fighting Back Down Under

Posted 1st October 2019 by Dave Cross
Vaping in Australia has never been under greater threat, according to the health charity Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA). In New Zealand, vapers are mobilising to fight following follow Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa’s announcement that the Government is keen to ban all flavours except tobacco, menthol and mint.

ATHRA has been very active over the last few weeks, with representatives appearing on television, radio, and in numerous press articles. It is in response to health officials and the anti-vape lobby spreading fear and misinformation in an effort to undermine vaping.

The charity states that Australian vape shops are reporting significantly reduced sales as a result of the concerted effort to make tobacco harm reduction look bad. The Australian media has framed events in America as being caused by vaping, and it says Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and State Health Officers and the Australian Medical Association have issued statements misleading the public.

ATHRA says international events are “influencing Australian decision makers and are an increasing threat to vaping in Australia. This could cost the lives of thousands of Australian smokers and vapers and lead the closure of many businesses.”

It has asked Australian vapers to:

  • Visit or write to their local federal (and state) MP and tell your story
  • Write to their local newspaper
  • Encourage their friends to do the same
  • Make a tax-deductible donation to ATHRA to support its efforts

In another part of Oceania, New Zealand was briefly held up to be a model of forward thinking and congratulated on its tobacco-related harm reduction approach. Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa was never convincing when announcing vaping’s legalised status and is now moving to restrict the range of flavours available.

“Kiwi ex-smokers are mobilising against the Government’s plans to drastically limit vaping flavours. Flavours have been key to them quitting tobacco and they now just want other smokers to have the same chance,” said Jonathan Devery, co-owner of Alt New Zealand and Vapo – the largest Kiwi-owned vaping business.

“This flavour ban comes off the back of hospitalisations in the US due to illegal THC and thickening agents being vaped. Let’s not forget that these overseas incidents had nothing to do with flavours or regulated vaping products. Thus, we implore the Government to do the research before it rushes to react by statute.”

A Facebook site ‘Kiwis Against The Flavour Ban’ [link] has been set up, attracting over 1,000 members in its first two days. The site invites ex-smokers to share their stories about how flavours have played an important role in helping them transition from smoking to vaping.

“The personal stories are incredibly compelling. I just hope the Government takes the time to reflect on what so many Kiwi ex-smokers are saying. Vaping is the country’s most effective smoking cessation tool, with the availability of flavours absolutely critical in getting so many long-time and heavy smokers off tobacco,” Devery added.

“New Zealand’s falling smoking rate has been helped considerably by the likes of fruit and dessert flavours in vaping. The idea of now banning the most successful and attractive flavours on the market for ex-smokers makes no sense whatsoever.”

In addition to the user-led Facebook group, the highly focused Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand (VTANZ) has been launched determined to vigorously fight any efforts to kill-off hundreds of New Zealand businesses and thousands of livelihoods now associated with the local vape industry.

Ben Pryor, a spokesperson for VTANZ, said: “All of us Kiwis involved in the industry are enormously proud of the work we have done to help tens of thousands of other Kiwis to quit smoking. However, given all the negative media coverage recently out of the US on unrelated issues, our trusted products and professional businesses in New Zealand are now facing decimation by statute.”

“The Ministry of Health has indicated the proposed regulations will prohibit harmful ingredients, set quality standards for ingredients, as well as set standards for refill containers and devices. This is long overdue. In recent years the local industry has done well to implement its own voluntary code around standards, but to have it all officially and explicitly sanctioned can’t come soon enough.”

“However,” added Mr Pryor, “New Zealand’s independent vaping brands and many retailers are increasingly concerned that MPs will now go much, much further. We’re really fearful that they’re about to side with the media’s newfound emotion, not the established scientific evidence.”

“We’re no longer going to take this lying down. As a positive industry, we’re now drawing a line under what is a big beat up. We’re coming together to fight any regulation that will boost Big Tobacco’s presence and see more Kiwis continue to smoke.”

Jonathan Devery also acts as a spokesperson for VTANZ, and added: “What’s more, the noises now coming out of the Beehive are increasingly alarming. Suddenly it’s all about prohibiting all marketing, banning the most successful flavours for adults, and dramatically capping nicotine levels. If the Government reacts to these ‘click-bait’ stories by making vaping less appealing to adult smokers, fewer will simply give up tobacco and the country will never achieve its smoke-free ambition.”

“In the absence of regulation, the original VTANZ established a code of conduct which saw local vape manufacturers and retailers adhere to the highest standards of product quality as well as drive the importance of R18 policies and checks. Now the industry desperately needs to step up again if we’re to survive what is suddenly a highly vexed environment, solely due to unrelated incidents reported overseas.”

The re-energised VTANZ now brings together almost all of New Zealand’s largest independent vape brands, manufacturers, and retailers. The organisation’s primary purpose in the coming weeks and months is to constructively advocate for the sustainability of New Zealand’s vaping industry and for all the Kiwi smokers wanting to successfully quit tobacco – now and in the future.

With no ties to tobacco, the industry association plans to work with MPs, Government officials, health and industry experts, as well as the likes of New Zealand Vaping Alliance (NZVA), Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA), health pressure group ASH, Quitline New Zealand, and public health leader Hapai Te Hauora.

Related:

  • Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) - [link]
  • Kiwis Against The Flavour Ban – [link]
  • The Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand (VTANZ) – [link]


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker