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Party passionate about smokefree could pick up 200,000 votes

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA)

Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA) says a massive voting constituency is so far being ignored this election, and if tapped it could mean make or break for a minor party.

AVCA co-director, Nancy Loucas, says 200,000 votes are potentially up for grabs for any party which can demonstrate it’s truly smokefree by releasing a vaping policy that is evidence-based and better supports smokers trying to quit deadly tobacco.

"There are just about as many vapers in New Zealand as there are people living in Tauranga and Dunedin combined. Yet vapers’ pleas have largely been ignored this year, with the country’s Smokefree 2025 ambition now further away than ever," says Ms Loucas.

Earlier this month, Parliament passed under Urgency, the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill.

However, Ms Loucas says: "The bill’s public submission period was shortened during the first lockdown with oral submitters presenting via teleconference to a seemingly disinterested Health Select Committee. It did not strike any confidence in the vaping community that the regulations were inclusive of stakeholders concerns."

Associate Minister of Health, Jenny Salesa, has since promised ‘to publicly consult on the regulations that will give effect to this bill. This will take place after the election and will provide businesses, members of the public, NGOs, and other stakeholders the opportunity to influence how it will be implemented.’

"These new regulations start taking effect from early November and with the election now delayed until 17 October, stakeholders can’t afford to wait until a new Government is formed. The consultation and collaboration need to happen now," says Ms Loucas.

"However, weeks on from the bill being passed, vape businesses and consumers haven’t heard a thing. Again, it just shows the dismissive attitude towards the vaping community, when we just want to work positively and in good faith.

"We have a piece of legislation that is full of holes and vagueness, with no real substance. It is difficult to understand exactly what everyone is supposed to be doing from November when it takes effect," she says.

Ms Loucas says another example of Wellington treating vapers dismissively came when AVCA’s Parliamentary petition on vaping, which over 17,000 Kiwis signed, was only formally accepted by Parliament and referred to the Health Select Committee on 18 August - nearly two weeks after the bill was passed.

AVCA’s petition, which closed back in March, to Parliament requested ‘That the House of Representatives debate the Government’s proposal to limit flavoured nicotine e-liquids to mint, menthol and tobacco’.

"To be honest the vaping community is feeling completely disenfranchised. All the scientific evidence supporting smokers’ access to a wide range of vape flavours was ignored, meaning flavours will soon be restricted to just three in general retail and online-only shops. This comes despite flavours being key to adults successfully quitting cigarettes."

Ms Loucas says a political party which firmly recommits to Smokefree 2025, wants to rid the country of combustible tobacco, and promises not only a workable vaping policy, but a willingness to engage with the vaping community, will be rewarded on election day.

"We look forward to sharing with our 200,000 fellow vapers, a party’s election manifesto which commits to a tough ongoing R18 stance, high product safety standards, but also promotes progressive public health policy being based on evidence and facts, not emotion and hyperbole."

She says many New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, eligible to vote in the upcoming election but currently living in Australia, will also be interested in parties’ stance on vaping this election.

"Kiwi vapers living in Australia are worried about Australia’s ban on the importation of all e-cigarette products containing nicotine from 1 January 2021. Such a backward step will simply see more smoking. Many Kiwis across the ditch now want to hear from a political party that’s prepared to encourage the Australian Federal Government to instead legalise and regulate vaping, as has just happened in New Zealand," says Ms Loucas.

About AVCA

AVCA was formed in 2016 by vapers across New Zealand wanting their voices heard in local and central government. All members are former smokers who promote vaping to help smokers quit - a much less harmful alternative to combustible tobacco products. AVCA does not have any affiliation or vested interest in industry - tobacco, pharmaceutical and/or the local vaping manufacturing or retail sectors.

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