The ACT Party is backing the government’s decision to legalise nicotine e-cigarettes, arguing it’s the biggest thing National has done to tackle poverty in a very long time.
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For the 35.5 percent of Maori families who smoke, switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes could save them hundreds of dollars per week – and help them quit, ACT leader David Seymour says.
"Low income families are being absolutely destroyed by taxes on tobacco; this gives them the opportunity to get nicotine without paying excise tax," he said.
Seymour said that as the government is not going to tax these products like they do tobacco, nobody is going to bother stealing them, leading to a reduction in thefts from dairies and service stations.
"The value [of an e-cigarette] is practically worthless – you’d be better off stealing milk and bread. It’s because of the high taxes that it’s worthwhile stealing tobacco."
Yesterday, Labour Party health spokesman David Clark urged caution on the issue, saying tobacco companies have a vested interest in some of these products and the Government will have to keep tabs on that.
But Seymour disagrees, saying all the research and anecdotal evidence points to the health benefits of smoking e-cigarettes for a nicotine hit over tobacco.
"The Labour Party, typically, are more worried about utu against tobacco companies than they are about the welfare of people who will get a safer product and a massive tax reduction if they’re addicted to nicotine."
A health expert from Otago University agrees, saying the legalisation of these products is a big step forward in New Zealand’s goal to become smoke-free by 2025.
Health department professor Tony Blakely said the sale of e-cigarettes will reduce the demand for tobacco and help smokers quit.
Blakely believes the government should look into other replacement options as well.
"What I would like to see more of is looking at alternative nicotine delivery devices. For example, should it just be available in something like an aerosol, so it’s a bit more like a medication, rather than something that looks like a cigarette?"
Despite praising the government’s decision, Blakely is also worried that e-cigarettes could be seen as "cool", leading to a potential increase in people becoming addicted to nicotine.