Recent findings from a vaping study contribute to growing evidence for vaping as a harm reduction tool in smoking cessation. The study also encourages the need for stronger regulations in the sector.

A study from the University of Athens took four groups of mice from a strain that is susceptible to lung injury, exposed them to 3 days or four weeks of either cigarette smoke, vape without nicotine or flavor, vape with nicotine, or vape with both nicotine and flavor. In the short term, both smoking and vaping appeared to increase the number of inflammatory cells, but after four weeks, it was only cigarette smoke and vape with the flavor that had an increased number of inflammatory cells. Lung tissue examinations revealed it was only cigarettes that caused lung degradation.

Dr. Hayden McRobbie spoke this morning on breakfast about "misleading headlines" referring to this study and said "when you take these findings into account, the evidence suggests although not harmless, e-cigarettes are less toxic than cigarettes".

These findings largely support the majority of research to date which strongly suggests there is a health benefit associated with vaping, based on the efficacy in increasing adult smoking cessation. Evidence indicates vaping is at least 95% safer alternative to combustible tobacco, and Hāpai Te Hauora Tobacco Control Advocacy Manager, Mihi Blair, affirms we must always remain responsive to emerging evidence:

"More than anything, these findings give more impetus to our ongoing calls for fast-tracked regulations for vaping, particularly on the quality of the ingredients that go into the e-liquids, and clear health messaging that does not confuse or mislead the public".

Hāpai has consistently advocated that public messaging and policy should continue to strive to reduce young people’s exposure to all nicotine and tobacco products. But, they should not do so at the expense of limiting such products’ potential to help adult smokers to quit.

Blair states: "When we examine vaping research, we want to know if it’s relevant to our priority groups- especially whānau Māori, whose experience of smoking is shaped by the devastating impact of colonisation. Vaping appears to be one of the few promising avenues we currently have in becoming smoke-free. With this in mind, this study has some limitations in terms of its applicability to our population. This is a study on mice, not people. It was also conducted in Greece - one of the leading tobacco producers in Europe where there is a high prevalence of smoking and unlike New Zealand, smoking is highest amongst their most educated groups, reflecting low levels of anti-smoking campaigns."

Aotearoa has been recognised internationally as a leader in tobacco control, and less punitive vaping regulations could be one new opportunity to demonstrate this leadership:

"We must not get side-tracked by unbalanced reporting on vaping or evidence which is cherry- picked to prove an ideological perspective. Harm reduction should be the end goal for us all."