Progress in New Zealand and UK, but Indonesia tells vapers to smoke

A prominent New Zealand public health expert has urged faster and more ambitions progress towards vaping as a harm reduction option, while Britain’s doctors’ union – an ugly exception to the country’s positive approach to vaping – now seems to be taking a more positive tone. However, Indonesia’s government stunned health campaigners last week by openly telling vapers to go back to cigarettes – and California activist Stanton Glantz tried to match that with some fresh madness of his own.

Kiwi health expert says vaping “key” to cutting smoking rates

A leading public health expert in New Zealand has criticised the country’s anti-smoking policies, pointing out that harsh restrictions and eye-watering levels of tax have managed to cut smoking rates by less than 0.5% per year since they began in the early 1970s. Professor Marewa Glover of Auckland’s Massey University compared New Zealand’s dismal performance with the situation in the UK, and pointed out that the key difference is the UK’s “very different attitude in encouraging people to switch from smoking cigarettes to e-cigarettes.”

Professor Glover proposes a voucher scheme to help would-be quitters with the initial cost of buying a vaping device, which is a barrier to many. She has also warned the government that sky-high taxes have now made small shops which sell tobacco the number one target for gangs of often violent thieves.

Boyd Broughton of pressure group ASH New Zealand disagrees, saying that e-cigarettes are “not the magic bullet that is going to stop our population from smoking overnight”, although nobody has actually claimed they’ll do that. Broughton also objects to testing vapour products for effectiveness as a stop-smoking aid, claiming it would be “unethical” for the health ministry to test products that a company would make money from selling. Despite this, Broughton has not complained about government-run testing of medicines, cars or food products.

BMA backs down on e-cigs

The British Medical Association, the doctors’ professional organisation, has built up a reputation as one of the few UK-based health groups that takes a hostile stance on vaping. Although it’s a trade union rather than a research or policy group its reputation gives it a lot of weight – perhaps more than it deserves – and its opposition to harm reduction has helped poison the debate over the past few years. Now, however, the BMA seems to be changing its mind.

In a new position paper released on Wednesday, the BMA Board of Science admits there are “clear potential benefits” to vaping. The paper, titled E-cigarettes: Balancing risks and opportunities, acknowledges that there is a “growing consensus that they are significantly less harmful than tobacco use,” which is a welcome contrast with their previous statements. Up to now the BMA has said doctors should not recommend e-cigs as a way to quit smoking, and it has campaigned actively for bans on public vaping.



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