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‘Unpleasant’ Ban

Palmerston North City Council in New Zealand believes there is an “unpleasantness of being exposed to vapour in public”

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A New Zealand city famous for its university, scientists, and academics is now being accused of making decisions about vaping based on emotion, not evidence. Palmerston North City Council believes there is an “unpleasantness of being exposed to vapour in public” and stands to reverse the gains made in tackling tobacco-related harm.

“Palmerston North’s Draft Auahi Kore Smokefree and Vapefree Policy 2020 does not support the country’s smokefree ambition. In fact, confusing vaping with smoking only hinders national progress on Smokefree 2025,” says Jonathan Devery, spokesperson for the Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand (VTANZ).

The representative of independent Kiwi vape businesses says the council is to be congratulated for hitting cigarette smoking in its outdoor areas policy now out for public consultation.

However, he says, including vaping in the proposed ban is misguided and only stigmatises New Zealand’s most effective smoking cessation tool, which even the Ministry of Health and DHBs promote to smokers’ keen to quit.

“We’re down to an overall smoking rate of 12.5% and that’s partly due to arrival of vaping which is considerable safer and significantly cheaper.

“By treating smoking and vaping the same, Palmerston North City Council is not being very clever. It’s simply banishing the best tool to eliminate the dangers of tobacco in the community,” says Mr Devery.

“Palmerston North City Council claims there are concerns about vaping which ‘stem from the effect it is having on young people, and the rate of uptake of vaping’. The reality, however, is there is no significant vaping problem among New Zealand youth. There certainly isn’t an epidemic, nor is it a gateway to smoking. Experts and surveys prove that time and time again.”

Earlier this year ASH released its annual Year 10 survey of over 27,000 New Zealand students aged 14 and 15. Analysing the data, University of Auckland researchers concluded there is no youth vaping epidemic, with youth vaping rates remaining very low.

“The council says the public believes there is an ‘unpleasantness of being exposed to vapour in public’. Well that’s nothing more than snobbery! Some people also have an unpleasantness towards tattoos - are they to be banned in public places next?

“Unlike smoking, there are zero second-hand impact on others from vaping and again, science continues to prove that. What’s more, let’s not forget we’re talking about expansive outdoor areas – parks, reserves, walkways, the city centre and the likes. You might see it, but it’s very rarely, if ever, in your personal space,” he says.

The council report on the policy says ‘in a survey conducted in November 2019 titled ‘Attitudes towards smoking and vaping in outdoor areas in Palmerston North’, most respondents disagreed with the logic that vaping is different from smoking and therefore should be treated differently.’

“All this shows is that many locals still believe vaping is as bad as smoking. However, there is stacks of research internationally that proves vaping is 95% less harmful.

“Interestingly, the council report says ‘around 5,000 people die each year in New Zealand because of smoking or second-hand smoke exposure’ but it fails to point out there has not been one reported death in New Zealand due to vaping. Yet by lumping it in with smoking, the council is inferring it presents similar or some danger, which has no scientific basis whatsoever.

“Hamilton, not Palmerston North, is actually the one showing progressive leadership on vaping when it comes to helping New Zealand become smokefree. Last year, the Hamilton City Council voted to keep vaping out of their city’s smokefree policy. Unlike Palmerston North, they understand the essential role vaping plays in making their city smokefree.

“If the Palmerston North City Council wants local smokers to quit tobacco, they actually have to enable vaping, not demonise it. Smokefree advocates will tell you vaping is a friend, not an enemy,” says Mr Devery.

VTANZ says local body politicians and council staff have now had their say. Now it’s time for health experts and vaping advocates to have there’s. Public consultation on the policy is expected to run from Saturday 4 July to Friday 31 July.

The association is also calling on MPs who support Smokefree 2025 to allow for wider access to vape flavours and to permit heavily regulated advertising, with the bill to regulate vaping currently progressing through Parliament.

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Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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