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Legalising electronic cigarettes could save thousands of NZ smokers’ lives

Thousands of New Zealand smokers’ lives could be saved by legalising domestic sales of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine, a leading vendor says.

The claim by Cosmic, which is selling the devices despite the current legal ban, comes as submissions close today on a legalisation plan and has some backing from public health experts, both here and overseas.

Public Health England, which has helped to revolutionise official views on e-cigarettes in New Zealand, has said the nicotine delivery systems can help smokers quit, and they carry only a small fraction of the risk of smoking tobacco.

Auckland University’s Professor Chris Bullen, who led the world’s first high-quality trial to compare the quit-smoking rates of e-cigarettes and nicotine patches, said: “I don’t think they are a magic bullet.

They’re not the sole thing that’s going to get us there [to the Smokefree 2025 goal], but I think they will help some population groups where we haven’t seen a breakthrough before.

“There could be some real potential for Maori smokers.”

His group’s trial found in 2013 that nicotine e-cigarettes were as good as patches, but he said the e-cigarettes sold today were superior to those in the trial, which delivered less nicotine than a cigarette.

“Experienced users can [now] get nicotine equivalent to smoking a standard cigarette.”

Around 546,000 Kiwis smoke daily, 15 per cent of the adult population. Every day on average, at least 13 people die from a smoking-related disease, around 5000 people a year. Half of smokers die from a smoking-related illness and on average their deaths will be 14 years earlier than if they didn’t smoke.

Many smokers and e-cigarette users will be carefully watching the Health Ministry’s response to submissions on its proposal to legalise and regulate e-cigarettes. The ministry said it has received more than 100 submissions. It will advise the Government by the end of the year on proposed changes to regulations under the Smokefree Environments Act.

A group of Otago University researchers are pushing for dairies, supermarkets and petrol stations to be prevented from selling e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine, saying instead that the permitted vendors should be limited to pharmacies or licensed “vape” shops.

Users “vape” on an e-cigarette, inhaling its nicotine-containing vapour, in the way that smokers inhale the smoke of a tobacco cigarette, which contains nicotine plus many cancer-causing chemicals.

Cosmic, which sells from seven retail stores nationally and an online business, said it had gained knowledge of e-cigarettes from the tens of thousands of customers who had bought its devices.

“There is no question these new devices represent the current best option to help smokers of traditional cigarettes to cut back or even stop altogether,” said the chain’s owner, Mark Carswell. “This is partly because they provide an ‘oral fix’ that nicotine patches don’t.”

In England, e-cigarettes are the leading form of quit-smoking aid, used by 35 per cent of smokers trying to quit, compared with the 27 per cent who use NRT.

Some researchers argue that e-cigarettes risk providing a “gateway” into smoking for youth, but Bullen said there was no evidence of this.

He and colleagues on the National Smokefree Working Group have recommended that only vape shops with staff trained to provide quit-smoking support, pharmacies and online stores be permitted to sell e-cigarettes at first.

Bullen favours later allowing supermarkets – but not dairies or petrol stations – to join in “if there is no evidence of youth uptake or other harms”.

His group is starting a new trial which will compare the quit-smoking rates of three groups of smokers: one using just a daily nicotine patch, another using that plus a nicotine e-cigarette, and the third using patches plus a nicotine-free e-cigarette. All participants will receive standard telephone-based behavioural support.

E-cigarettes now

• A legal grey area
• It’s unlawful to sell the nicotine or the devices containing it locally
• They can be legally imported via internet for personal use
• Health Ministry takes no enforcement action

Health Ministry proposal
• Local sales permitted
• R-18
• Advertising restricted
• Vaping banned in smokefree areas, such as in bars and other workplaces.

NZ Plain tobacco packaging bill passes third reading

Timaru North Street Dairy owner Jay Tailor does not think the Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill will make a positive long term impact on smokers.

Plain tobacco product packaging will not help a Timaru smoker who spends $70 every five days on his habit quit, he says.

The Smoke-free Environments (Tobacco Plain Packaging) Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading in Parliament on Thursday to address the 4500 to 5000 premature deaths caused by smoking every year in New Zealand.

To prevent potential young smokers from starting through the attraction to branding and bright coloured labelling, it is hoped the plain standardised packaging, to be implemented by the end of next year, will deter them.

Though the planned plain packaging had not been finalised, it was likely to follow the Australian design of green-brown with 75 per cent of the front emblazoned with health warnings and the brand name in small plain font.

Jamie Robinson, a 28-year-old freezing worker, has smoked for 17 years. Robinson has used gum, patches and pills to give up smoking but still can’t kick the addiction.

He spends $70 on 50 grams of tobacco, filters and rolling papers which lasts him about five days.

He can recall the same amount of tobacco 10 years ago was about $35. His wages have not increased at the same rate.

“I get agitated if I run out. I’m not very fit … I cough a lot and get out of breath.”

Robinson’s late brother introduced him to his first cigarette at the age of 11.

He did not think packaging would make a difference to his habit or to young people as peer pressure to smoke was stronger.

“It’s not socially acceptable for adults to smoke anymore but kids don’t think ahead.”

Murray’s Barber Shop and Beauty Salon owner Geoff Gibson said he would rather see someone smoking while driving than drinking a bottle of liquor while driving.

He did not agree with the Government changing the packaging of “a legal product’ such as cigarettes when labelling on alcohol was remaining.

“The Government does not want to touch liquor and that causes social issues.”

Heather Sutcliffe has been the owner/operator of the Morgans Rd Four Square for 13 years. In that time, measures to curb smoking, such as graphic health warnings introduced in 2008 and hiding tobacco products in cabinets in 2012, had not stopped her regular smoking customers – or prevented new ones starting. She did not expect the new packaging to make an impact either.

“[Smokers are] addicted and try to stop but can’t manage it.”

At a cost of $25 on average for a packet of 20 cigarettes, people were still buying them, she said.

“We have parents come in with their kids and the kids are not allowed to have anything, but [the parents] still buy smokes. It puts families into hardship.”

Mountain View Dairy owner Kirtesh Shah did not think the bill would make a difference.

“People smoke anyway.”

And North Street Dairy owner Jay Tailor predicted once the bill was implemented, it may slow sales for the first six months but then it would return to pre-bill numbers.

A 24-year-old Timaru mother of two, who did not want her name to be published, admits she was attracted to smoking by the packaging at the age of 14.

“I used to buy a packet because of the colour [of the packaging] and buy a lighter the same colour to match it.”

She still smokes but said her children did not miss out on anything because what she spent would be money she spent on herself anyway.

“I buy smokes instead of getting my hair done.”

South Canterbury District Health Board smokefree facilitator Carmen Chamberlain said Australia had found the introduction, in 2012, of plain packaging, larger health warnings and new warnings, had reduced smoking prevalence beyond the pre-existing downward trend.

“It is estimated that plain packaging would have a similar overall effect as a five per cent price increase from a tobacco excise tax rise, without imposing an extra financial burden on low-income smokers,” she said.

“Overall, new evidence suggests that plain packaging will not only deter smoking initiation (its primary objective), but also stimulate cessation among smokers.

“Tobacco is a highly addictive product known to kill two out of three long-term users, and we welcome any steps that will support smokers to become smokefree.”

For face to face support to quit contact 0800 111 880 or check out the Facebook page Kick Ash South Canterbury.

Vaping is linked to deadly lung infections

Vaping may raise people’s risk of pneumonia and other deadly bacterial infections, a leading lung scientist has warned.

Professor Jonathan Grigg has found that the chemical propellants and nicotine used in ecigarettes both have a powerful effect on lung cells, effectively opening them up to infection by the bacteria that cause pneumonia.

“People who vape should consider vaccination against bacterial pneumonia,” said Grigg, professor of paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University of London.

Ecigarettes work by heating a mix of propylene glycol (the propellant), nicotine and various flavourings, creating a vapour that the user inhales.

Sex, Lies, and Cigarettes

In this Emmy-nominated documentary, Christof Putzel investigates Big Tobacco’s successful and deadly expansion into the developing world. From the smoking baby to the Marlboro Man, little is off limits in the “Wild West” of the world’s fastest growing smokers market.

-Overseas Press Club Award
-Prism Award

Sex, Lies, and Cigarettes from Christof Putzel on Vimeo.


Tobacco poses serious health risks U.S. troops and veterans, costing our military $1.6 billion a year for medical treatment of smoking-related illnesses. The military in recent steps has taken steps to discourage tobacco use and encourage soldiers to kick the habit and save lives.

But now Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) is fighting to allow tobacco companies to give free cigars to U.S. military personnel. Hunter has taken $42,011 from the tobacco industry since 2010, including over $13,511 for his 2016 campaign, according to Open Secrets.

Asked about threats posed by tobacco to soldiers’ lives and health, as well as the high costs of caring for veterans suffering from tobacco-related illnesses, Hunter stated, “I don’t care. When it comes to guys overseas fighting, I don’t care,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Hunter, a combat veteran and former artillery officer, has said he believes tobacco helps calm nerves of soldiers and improve morale in high-stress situations. Hunter has said he smoked while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, but has since switched to vaping (electronic cigarettes) and occasionally cigars.

In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control found that 29% of veterans were smokers and that the smoking rate among those who served in combat could be as high as 50%, U.S. Medicine reported. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is four times higher than in the general population and 80% of COPD deaths are due to smoking, Dr. David Au, an investigator in the Veterans Administration Northwest Center of Excellence.

Tobacco related illnesses can also weaken combat readiness of troops, the Defense Department has said. Before health dangers were widely known, the military used to put free cigarettes in field rations, but halted that practice over 40 years ago.

In the past, tobacco companies routinely gave cigarettes and other tobacco products to U.S. soldiers, an action that led many soldiers to become addicted to nicotine, costing countless lives.

A new Food and Drug Administration regulation that just took effect bars tobacco companies from giving away products and imposes fines for violations. Hunter, in a letter to the FDA, Hunter wrote,” It would be unacceptable for the FDA to prohibit the distribution of tobacco products to service members who are fighting to protect those very rights that may be restricted.”

This isn’t Hunter’s first outspoken action on behalf of smokers. In February, he drew controversy for vaping on the House floor to argue against a ban on e-cigarettes on airplanes, CNN reported, with video.

But with the health hazards of smoking well known and US$42,000 in tobacco industry donations lining his campaign coffers, the burning question remains: just whose interest is Rep. Hunter truly representing?

Tobacco giant warns of plain packet ‘black market’

New Zealand adopting plain packaging on cigarettes will fail to deter smokers, a global tobacco company has said.‘black-market’

A bill which will mean cigarettes can only be sold in bland brown or green packaging passed its final reading in Parliament this week.

The bill means mandatory health warnings will cover at least three quarters of the packet and tobacco company logos will be removed.

It’s taken three years for the legislation to pass after tobacco companies tried to sue the Australian government.

That legal battle failed last year, and even though the law was still facing challenges, such as by the World Trade Organisation, with other countries also introducing plain packing, legal action was less likely.

But British American Tobacco’s New Zealand spokesman Saul Derber said plain packaging in Australia had been a failure – and it would fail here too.

“Not only is the Australian tobacco plain packaging experiment failing to meet its objectives, the policy is having serious unintended consequences,” he said.

“The tobacco black market has grown by over 20 percent in Australia since the introduction of plain packs, costing the Australian government about $NZ1.5 billion in lost revenue in 2015, Mr Derber said.

He said with no graphic health warnings, no controls preventing sales to youth and no tax it was likely the introduction of plain packaging would grow the black market here as well.

Yadayadayadayada “Plain packaging is an attack on companies’ intellectual property rights and undermines the principles on which international trade is founded,” he said.

Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said yesterday the government was confident it could win any legal action taken by tobacco companies.

“We can’t determine what will happen in the courts, but we feel like we’ve seen the evidence from overseas, we’re pretty comfortable with that, and we’re going to move forward,” Mr Lotu-liga said.

Plain cigarette packaging is expected to hit New Zealand shelves from next year.

Big Tobacco Pours Millions Into California Cigarette Tax Fight

Reynolds American Inc., Altria Group Inc. and other tobacco companies are steering millions of dollars to defeating a $2 cigarette-tax increase in California, a high-stakes effort and the third such fight in a decade in the most populous U.S. state.

The tobacco industry’s outlay of $55.9 million so far means that it has outspent supporters 3-to-1 in donations to defeat the measure, which starting in April would boost the levy to $2.87 a pack. The initiative would generate from $1 billion to $1.4 billion in revenue in fiscal 2018 for cancer treatment and smoking prevention.

“When one side is spending much more than the other, it’s hard for voters to get a clear picture,” said Daniel G. Newman, president of MapLight, a Berkeley, California-based nonpartisan research organization that tracks money in politics. “Imagine two messages side by side — one blaring from a gigantic movie screen and on the other side from a small cellphone. For voters, that amplification is going to make a difference.”

California, the first U.S. state to eliminate smoking in bars and restaurants and legalize medical marijuana, is an important battleground for the tobacco industry because policies approved there tend to be adopted by other municipalities. Blocking the tax in the state of 39 million people could deter anti-tobacco advocates in more conservative states from pursuing similar changes. That’s led cigarette markers including Richmond, Virginia-based Altria and Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Reynolds to steer more cash toward fighting tax proposals in California than in any other state.

As the harmful health effects of smoking have come to light, the industry has for years employed an army of lobbyists and spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its battle with state and federal regulators and public-health advocates over curbing the practice and marketing the product, especially to kids. The firms reached a $200 billion settlement with 46 states in 1998 over the costs to treat ailing cigarette smokers.

Tobacco plain-packaging given tick by MPs

Legislation requiring tobacco products to have plain packaging has passed its final hurdle in Parliament.

The bill was first introduced in 2013 before legal action by tobacco companies in Australia put the legislation on hold.

However, that challenge failed last year.

Under standardised packaging all cigarettes and other tobacco products would be in brown or green coloured packaging, similar to what is required in Australia.

Mandatory health warnings would also cover at least three quarters of the packet, and tobacco company marketing imagery removed.

Brand names would be allowed, but there would be restrictions about how and where they could be printed.

Associate Health Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said the passing of the legislation sent a clear message the government was serious about ending the unnecessary deaths from tobacco use.

“The bland packs will maximise the impact of health warnings and cut out any false impression that smoking is cool or glamorous,” he said.

“Standardised packaging, along with the existing suite of tobacco control measures and quit-smoking services, is a logical next step towards the Smokefree 2025 goal.”

Regulations needed for the law to come into force are currently under development following a public consultation that closed at the end of July.

New Zealand First and the ACT Party were the only parties to oppose the bill.

Plain packaging for tobacco confirmed

Plain packaging for tobacco is on the way after legislation passed its final hurdle tonight.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga took a large cigarette packet prop into Parliament’s debating chamber to show what plain packaging could look like.

“This is what will make a difference,” he said.

“When cigarette packs come out of a smoker’s pocket or are left lying around on the table where others can see, there will be nothing but a drab, ugly background colour and large, prominent, graphic pictorial warnings.”

Lotu-Iiga said no other product was so widely used and posed such a direct level of risk to users. Smoking led to between 4500 and 500 premature deaths in New Zealand each year, he said.

“This bill takes away the last means of promoting tobacco as a desirable product. It stops the promotion of smoking as cool, fun, glamorous.

“About 13 people die prematurely every day from smoking-related illnesses…this is a bill to protect children and young people from being tempted from trying cigarettes.”

The legislation passed 108 to 13 votes, with opposition from New Zealand First and the Act Party.

New Zealand First health spokeswoman Barbara Stewart said all parties would be in agreement as to the damage that smoking could cause.

However, New Zealand First had concerns about a lack of evidence that plain packaging was effective, and possible unintended consequences such as an increase in black market sales.

“We have to remind people that $1.6 billion in excise tax is going into the government coffers every year…there is a clear ulterior motive here, and it is not public health, as it should be.

“We remain unconvinced that plain or standardised packaging is effective at reducing tobacco consumption.”

Plain packaging is part of measures designed to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025, a key goal of the Maori Party.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox referenced her confrontation with Imperial Tobacco spokesman Dr Axel Gietz on TV3`s The Nation in June.

Fox stormed out of the TV interview after accusing Gietz of “peddling death and destruction and misery”.

Tonight, she said last night she was visited by a person whose wife had recently died after being a smoker for 40 years.

“He came to bring me his wishes to tackle tobacco control in this country. He said she tried everything…e cigarettes, patches, cold turkey.

“She could not kick the habit, and eventually she died trying. Today I want to remember her.”

Plain packaging for tobacco is likely to be in place early next year.

The government in May released draft regulations and a consultation document which aims to standardise the look of cigarette packs.

New Zealand had been keeping an eye on the outcome of legal challenges against Australia’s plain packaging, one from tobacco firm Philip Morris and another from tobacco-producing countries via the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Australia won the case against Philip Morris in December.

The WTO challenge is ongoing, but the Government received advice late last year that the Government was on a “firm footing” to progress plain packaging because several other countries, including the UK and Ireland, had introduced it.

These countries did not face a challenge under the WTO.

A pack of 20 cigarettes in New Zealand will increase from about $20 now to around $30 in 2020 after hefty excise increases were announced as part of May’s Budget.

The tax on tobacco will rise by 10 per cent on January 1 each year for the next four years.

That is expected to bring in an extra $425 million in tax over that period.

It will affect the about 15 per cent of adult New Zealanders who smoke each day – about 550,000 people.

That rate increases to 35 per cent for Maori, and 22 per cent for Pacific people.

Lotu-Iiga last month released a consultation document that includes a proposal to legalise the sale of e-cigarettes in New Zealand.

Nicotine patches and gum can be bought, but nicotine e-cigarette liquid must be bought from overseas.

Other countries, like the UK, allow the e-cigarettes or vaporisers to be sold in supermarkets and dairies.

The products would not be allowed to be used in smoke-free areas, and safety measures including child-proof containers will be considered.

Total 73 Macau smoking lounges await approval: govt

Applications for a total of 73 smoking lounges across Macau’s casino market were pending government approval as of early July this year, said Health Bureau director Lei Chin Ion in a written reply to a question from Macau legislator Ella Lei Cheng I.

The official statement, publicised on Wednesday, did not specify which casinos had applied for the smoking lounges. It did state that a total of 86 smoking lounges were designated as government-approved facilities in the city’s casino market as of early July, but didn’t list where they were. Of that number, 83 were located on main or ‘mass’ gaming floors; while the remaining three smoking lounges were situated in “areas restricted to certain gamblers”.

In October 2014 the Macau government banned smoking on casino mass floors. An exception was made for tobacco use in enclosed smoking lounges – facilities without gaming – located on some casino mass-market floors in the city. Having a cigarette while gambling is at present still allowed in VIP rooms.

The main floor ban had brought an “apparent improvement” in the air quality inside casinos, Mr Lei remarked in his answer to Ms Lei, a legislator affiliated to an influential local labour grouping called the Macau Federation of Trade Unions. Some local casino workers have complained that smoking lounges do not sufficiently protect them from secondhand smoke.

As of the first half of this year, a total of 277 people have been fined for smoking in unauthorised areas inside the city’s casinos, Mr Lei stated. His department has also received 561 complaints in the period regarding alleged smoking rules violation inside casinos, of which 90 percent of the cases were transferred to the city’s casino regulator Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau for further follow up.

The government is now pushing for a full smoking ban inside casinos as part of a scheduled revision of the city’s tobacco control law. But the majority on the Macau Legislative Assembly working committee asked to scrutinise the revised tobacco control bill currently supports the retention of smoking lounges on casinos. The working committee is currently on its summer break: it will only continue reviewing the bill after October 15 at the earliest, once the Legislative Assembly’s two-month recess ends.

A number of investment analysts have said that were smoking to be banned outright from the city’s casinos, it could have a negative affect on gaming revenue generated from smokers; as they would spend less time at a gaming table or a gaming machine if required to step outside to pursue their tobacco habit.