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New Zealand Drugs Trends Survey shows increased vaping of nicotine e-liquids

The third release of findings from the 2022/23 New Zealand Drugs Trends Survey (NZDTS) shows an increase in nicotine e-liquid vaping, a decline in the use of no-nicotine e-liquids, and steady levels of cannabis vaping. It also shows that high proportions of vapers indicated that nicotine vaping had helped them to reduce or stop tobacco smoking.

The NZDTS is one of the first studies to investigate the phenomenon of cannabis vaping in Aotearoa New Zealand. Nicotine products were often used daily, while cannabis and no-nicotine vapes were used less frequently.

Meanwhile, there has been some increase in the use of prescriptions for medicinal cannabis.

Senior Researcher at Massey University’s SHORE & Whariki Research Centre Dr Marta Rychert says, “More medicinal cannabis users asked their doctors for a prescription, and more requests were successful. Approximately one in 10 medicinal cannabis users surveyed in 2023 had a prescription. This trend may reflect increasing GP familiarity with the Medicinal Cannabis Scheme, an increasing product offer and the opening of private cannabis clinics that specialise in cannabis prescribing.”

However, most medicinal cannabis users still access medicinal cannabis from the grey market. Barriers to the legal scheme include stigma, perceptions of high price, and that GPs would not consider prescribing.

The survey showed that there has been a rise in those seeking help for alcohol and drug issues, perhaps reflecting more positive social perceptions and openness about these problems. Respondents most often needed help to reduce their alcohol, cannabis and tobacco use.

The cannabis law reform options that received the highest support were for a lightly-regulated market (like alcohol) or a strictly regulated market (like tobacco). Support for reform was highest among respondents who supported the Green and Labour parties, but support for continuing prohibition was also low among those who supported National and New Zealand First. Support for decriminalisation was highest among those who supported New Zealand First, Te Pāti Māori and National.

“The survey respondents have higher level of cannabis and other drug use than the general population and this can partly explain their support for reform. But these findings also illustrate the opportunities for cross party agreement in terms of reform,” Dr Rychert says.

The NZDTS is carried out by the Drugs Research Team at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University’s SHORE & Whāriki Research Centre. The online survey was completed by 13,026 New Zealanders from around the country between August 2022 and February 2023.

The Drugs Research Team consists of Associate Professor Chris Wilkins, Dr Marta Rychert, Dr Jose Romeo, Robin van der Sanden and Thomas Graydon-Guy.


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