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Cancer Society’s ‘Precautionary Approach’ to vaping will cost lives

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

If the government is serious about harm reduction it should do the exact opposite of what the Cancer Society recommends, says harm reduction advocacy body AVCA (Aotearoa Vape Community Action).

Released today the Cancer Society has put out a dishonest document that risks perpetuating the smoking epidemic in New Zealand.

The Cancer Society’s positions outlined in their report are about prohibition and restriction instead of informing, educating and encouraging smokers to switch.

The society justifies its position based on the dismal record to reduce smoking rates in New Zealand. In 2006/7 the national smoking rate was 20% of while 11 years later in 2017/18 it has only dropped to 14.9%.

Doing more of the same will just perpetuate the smoking epidemic while protecting Big Tobacco and its lethal business. The Cancer Society hasn’t presented anything helpful and its piecemeal efforts will not get us to SmokeFree 2025.

The Cancer Society is calling for an evidence based approach but they’re ignoring the best evidence out there which is in the U.K. where smoking rates are declining rapidly under proper policies that encourage harm reduction and are working.

In 2011, England had a smoking rate of 19.8% and by 2018 it was 14.4%. England now has a lower smoking rate than New Zealand and achieved it in faster time. The English have embraced harm reduction fully and are seeing smoking rates in "terminal decline"1.

The Cancer Society needs to be part of the solution and come up with creative ways to help smokers rather than recycle the same old playbook that has continuously failed to help New Zealanders.

To assist, AVCA has developed some areas the Cancer Society can invest in:

- Use accurate language. Justifying bans on vaping because they aren’t risk free is misleading. Harm reduction is about reducing the harms compared to smoking, not making it safe.

- Stop misusing the precautionary principle. Decision theorists emphasise that caution shouldn’t be rooted in moralism or emotion. Using the precautionary principle will only perpetuate smoking in New Zealand longer and squander an opportunity to create real change.

- Engage with the community. The society’s advice to limit the outlets where vaporisers are sold completely ignores many community organisations that are encouraging people to switch. A blinkered understanding of the community isn’t helping anybody.

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