Hāpai Te Hauora GM for the National Tobacco Control Advocacy Service, Mihi Blair, is concerned that recent media coverage of vaping has the potential to harm whānau.

"We’re seeing more scrutiny of companies behind vaping and other tobacco alternatives, and informed conversations about the harm reduction potential of vaping by experts, which is great" says Blair "However there needs to be caution exercised by commentators and journalists as throw-away comments about the safety of vaping can be harmful for our whānau who are getting mixed messages about what’s safe."

Last night Te Ao with Moana on Māori Television featured a debate with Māori health experts, preceded by a kōrero with commentator David Slack. After saying that tobacco companies have been allowed to promote vaping in a way that glosses over potential problems, Slack says "Rather than promoting vaping or other smoking alternatives, the best and healthiest course may simply be to pursue a completely smoke-free goal."

"With respect, what does this commentator bring to the debate about tobacco control and what it takes to quit smoking?" says Dr. Murray Winiata, GP working in Mangere Family Doctors. "Pursuing a completely smoke-free goal is what we’ve been doing for decades, fought at every step by the tobacco industry. If it was as simple as ‘going completely smoke-free’ we’d be there already."

"Of course we want the tobacco industry out of Aotearoa, and no longer profiting off harm to our people." says Dr. Winiata. "But in the meantime, we’ve got whānau struggling with an addiction to tobacco which is killing us. Addiction is complex and it is complicated further by poverty for many of our people and the reality is that vaping has been proven to be effective for some whānau who have been unable to quit using other methods."

Hāpai has called for regulatory control around the advertising of vaping and tobacco alternatives, their ingredients and specific protections for rangatahi to prevent uptake among our young people. This includes informing the creation of the Vaping Facts website www.vapingfacts.health.nz launched this year by the Ministry of Health and the Health Promotion Agency.

Blair adds, "We need to be vigilant about keeping our focus on whānau when we debate harm reduction. There are relevant and important kōrero to have around emerging evidence of the safety of vaping and other tobacco alternatives, as well as keeping a critical eye on who profits. But this shouldn’t detract from our goal of protecting whānau from the well-known and deadly harms of tobacco use."