Community members and the smoke-free sector are calling into question a Whanganui Chronicle opinion piece for giving a misleading and misguided stance on vaping.

The writer, Jay Kuten, draws a long bow in suggesting that Ministry of Health vaping recommendations should be called into question because they accept feedback from quality vape vendors on their expert panel. The article also details the risks of using "false claims", "deceptive practice" and "opinions of those with vested interests in vaping".

Hāpai Te Hauora General Manager of Tobacco Control, Mihi Blair, asks "Do you know who has a vested interest in vaping? Anyone who is sick of losing 5,000 whānau members a year to tobacco; anyone who acknowledges the growing body of research showing vaping is helping many to break free of their tobacco addiction; anyone who cares about our people. We all care- including those members on this Ministry panel- my question is, does this author?"

Advisory group member, QJ Satchell, started his business, NZVAPOR, to support others in going smoke-free after he was able to quit cigarettes overnight with vaping. He has spent the last seven years advocating for whānau Māori who have been able to quit using vapes. He says that his role in the advisory group comes from his expertise in the vape market and that his business interest isn’t hidden - he has declared his interest up front and it’s his commercial links which make his expertise invaluable to the group understanding exactly how the vape market works. "Vaping is much more complex than what most people would know. It was important that the Ministry chose knowledgeable members from all aspects of this technical industry. Because of that, I advise on the sales end of this industry, just like others on this board advise on community experience and scientific research, etc."

Chair of the Electronic Cigarette Technical Expert Advisory Group, Dr Hayden McRobbie, responds: "The author has misinterpreted the reference to ‘experts’ in the Ministry of Health’s statement. The Ministry is referring to current expert opinion in the field, not the experts in the technical advisory group. The role of the technical advisory group is not to advise on the health risks of vaping, but to provide advice on the definitions of vaping, e-liquid, and assess safety standards. We welcome him to read the Terms of Reference, which is available online."

Dr McRobbie, who accepts no industry funding, has been praised by community and sector members alike for his recent randomised control study which found that vaping has almost twice the quit rates as popular cessation option, nicotine replace therapy (NRT). These findings are supported by Vape2Save founder and Technical Expert Advisory Group consumer representative, Rebecca Ruwhiu-Collins.

"I wanted to respond personally to this article because I see first-hand the damage that "vaper bashing" does to whānau who are trying to quit tobacco. The writer challenges the term ‘e-cigarettes'- a word the consumers reject because they don’t want to be lumped into the "smokers" category anymore. I’m seeing Māori women come through my doors feeling proud and self-determined because they’ve finally found a tool that has helped them quit cigarettes. Combustible tobacco is the real killer, not vaping, and these misguided views are actually deterring those who smoke tobacco from quitting".

Blair finishes, "How disappointing that a medical practitioner like this author has been given a platform to pedal such harmful and incorrect views on vaping. By spreading mistruths on vaping, he is stripping peoples’ rights to quality health information. As Moana Jackson stated "No one’s exercise of free speech should make another feel less free".