Hāpai Te Hauora is calling for sensibility and improved focus on smoked tobacco cigarettes given its devastating history and continued harm on Māori health.
Last week the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ spoke to Māori media using the ASH Year 10 Study that shows an increase in rangatahi (youth) experimenting with vaping devices from 20% in 2014 to 28% in 2016. Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ omitted from their story that of all those who experimented with e-cigarettes less than 3% are regular weekly or daily users.
National Tobacco Control Advocacy General Manager, Mihi Blair says "there is confusion out there around vaping and the statements made last week add to that confusion rather than bring any clarity or practical help on what we can do to reduce smoking harm"
"It is important that smoking reduction is where public health organisations place their weight and efforts, being distracted by stoned smurfs and unicorn flavourings is not helpful to reaching Smokefree 2025. The data did not link flavor or nicotine levels to youth experimentation"
Hāpai Te Hauora is the largest Māori public health group in Aotearoa and they are disappointed that strong statements have been used that are confusing to Māori and Pacific who may be trying to stop smoking. Tens of thousands of kiwi’s have not been able to quit using traditional stop smoking services and so turn to vaping devices to stop smoking or reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke.
Blair says, "Smoking and other addictions are a serious public health issue for Māori that deserves comprehensive discussion and coverage. We need more Māori public health perspectives on vaping devices and products to be representing Māori voices on Māori media and Hāpai Te Hauora would welcome that invitation".
ASH NZ spokesperson Ben Youdan says "The pathways in and out of addiction are not straightforward." Youdan has shared with other public health organisations that the story misses the opportunity for more in-depth searching into why youth are trying vaping. "Is it because they want to get off smoked tobacco - like almost all adult vapers? And if never smokers are trying and going on to vape - is this offsetting the uptake of smoked tobacco?" says Youdan.
Hāpai Te Hauora are working to understand the vaping environment and has been working with Vape Vendors around New Zealand who are self-regulating to ensure good ethical practice is in place.
Blair adds, "The Vape Vendors have been open about their practice. Working with them is more beneficial to build better systems and regulations in place so that people who smoke have better access to this product to quit smoking tobacco.
Vape2Save founder Rebecca Ruwhiu-Collins says "Vaping is not the magic bullet for everyone to stop smoking, we know this. But as a practitioner in the field, in my experience I have seen high numbers of successful quitting using vape devices, this is why I set up Vape2Save three years ago."
Ruwhiu-Collins says "The ASH Year10 data on youth experimentation with vaping devices highlights important research gaps, these need to be studied so that we are not left with assumptions".
Hāpai Te Hauora acknowledges that the vaping industry has already grown and are seeking quality control from the industry for quality vaping products.
Blair says "there are good quality products out there, but cowboy vendors are also out there selling poor quality products to whānau. We must regulate to ensure all communities get the best vaping products to help them stop smoking".