Proposal to legalise e-cigarettes

The sale of e-cigarettes in New Zealand will become legal under a Government proposal.

Associate Health Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga has released a consultation document that includes the proposed change to the product's legal status.

Nicotine patches and gum can be bought, but nicotine e-cigarette liquid must be bought from overseas.

Other countries, like the UK, allow the e-cigarettes or vaporisers to be sold in supermarkets and dairies.

"Currently the sale and supply of e-cigarettes containing nicotine is prohibited in New Zealand. However people are buying them online and importing directly for personal use," Lotu-Iiga said.

"The proposal is to make the sale and supply of all e-cigarettes lawful in New Zealand with appropriate controls."

Those controls would include an R18 limit, and a ban on e-cigarette advertisements.

The products would not be allowed to be used in smoke-free areas, and safety measures including child-proof containers will be considered.

"E-cigarettes are relatively new and evolving products. There is scientific consensus that they are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes," Lotu-Iiga said.

Submissions on the proposals close on September 12.

The move comes after some tobacco researchers have urged the removal of restrictions on buying e-cigarettes containing nicotine. However, there are fears young people could use the devices.

In May, Lotu-Iiga announced plain packaging for tobacco products, which is likely to be in place early next year.

And a pack of 20 cigarettes will increase from about $20 now to around $30 in 2020 after hefty excise increases were announced as part of May's Budget.

The tax on tobacco will rise by 10% on January 1 each year for the next four years.

That is expected to bring in an extra $425 million in tax over that period.

It will affect the about 15% of adult New Zealanders who smoke each day - about 550,000 people.

That rate increases to 35% for Maori, and 22% for Pacific people.

The tax hikes are part of measures designed to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025, a key goal of the Maori Party.

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