The Government has taken its time to decide e cig containing nicotine can be sold in New Zealand. The case for allowing them looked conclusive years ago. Nicotine, perhaps contrary to popular belief, is not the carcinogen in conventional cigarettes.
Rather it is the tar and other toxins of burned tobacco that do harm to the lungs. E cig do not burn tobacco or any other plant, they produce water vapour to carry nicotine to the bloodstream.
Nicotine is the addictive element of smoking, though it is obviously not as addictive as drugs such as heroin and cocaine banned by law.
Possibly the craving for a cigarette also has something to do with the curious comfort and sense of well-being smokers experience from the physical acts of lighting up and drawing smoke into their lungs.
In any case, the addictive qualities of nicotine are apparently not sufficient to justify its prohibition.
Instead, those who opposed the sale of nicotine for delivery in vape pen argued it could encourage more people to enjoy smoking, or “vaping”, and become a “gateway” to tobacco.
Others in the anti-smoking lobby argued quite the opposite – that it provided an effective exit from tobacco. The Ministry of Health declined to approve its sale until it could be persuaded vaping was an effective quitting aid.
It does not appear to be convinced. Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner said the Government had decided to legalise its sale despite the lack of conclusive evidence e-cigarettes were safe. “Around the world we can’t get clear research on this,” she said, “But we’re thinking they are about 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.”
The decision seems right. Unless there is clear evidence of serious harm, regulators should not prohibit a product some people enjoy.