Vaping products: Information for health care workers and stop-smoking services

This page may be helpful when talking to people about vaping products (also known as e-cigarettes or vapes). It provides answers to common questions and issues.

What are vaping products?

Vaping products are battery-operated devices that heat a solution (or e-liquid) to produce a vapour that the user inhales or ‘vapes’. The ingredients of the e-liquid may vary, but currently, most contain propylene glycol (also used in asthma inhalers and nebulisers) and flavouring agents. In New Zealand, flavoured e-liquids are only available at specialist vape stores, except for tobacco, menthol and mint flavours, which are available at generalist stores such as dairies, petrol stations, chemists, and supermarkets. Some, but not all, e-liquids contain nicotine. Read more about at vaprzon.

Vaping products are a less harmful way of delivering nicotine than conventional tobacco cigarettes. However, vaping products cannot be regarded as being harmless: they still produce a range of toxicants, including some known carcinogens, in the vapour that users inhale, but at much lower levels than those found in cigarette smoke and at levels unlikely to cause harm (Ministry of Health, 2020b).

Types of vaping products

Vaping products come in a range of styles. Some devices look like conventional cigarettes with refillable cartridge ‘tank’ systems. In contrast, others are appliances with larger batteries that allow the power to be adjusted to meet an individual’s specific vapour requirements, or closed systems with low-powered batteries and replaceable cartridges (known as pods). The pods contain the heating coil and the e-liquid, which can be replaced as needed. These devices are far more discrete than tank systems, with little vapour and the size and appearance of a memory stick.

  • Get more information about different vaping products

The rapid evolution of devices has hampered research into the effectiveness of vaping for smoking cessation. The studies used products that are now considered obsolete, which typically had limited battery life and poor nicotine delivery. Contemporary devices can deliver nicotine far more effectively than earlier products. Very experienced vapers can achieve nicotine levels similar to those from smoking cigarettes (Prochaska, Vogel, & Benowitz, 2021).

Availability of vaping products in New Zealand

From November 2020, vaping products are regulated under the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990. People can use vaping products to support smoking cessation, but vaping products cannot be marketed as a stop-smoking medication.

As a regulated tobacco product, vaping products are subject to the provisions in the Act for smoke-free indoor workplaces (including restaurants and bars) and early childhood centres and schools. From November 2021, vaping will be illegal in vehicles carrying children under the age of 18. Some of the Smokefree Environments Act requirements also apply to vaping and heated tobacco products, such as banning advertising of these products and making it illegal to sell them to young people under the age of 18.

How many New Zealanders vape?

Many people report having ‘ever used’ vaping products. They say that they have tried or experimented with vaping, and that is all. Some people vape more regularly, such as daily or weekly. In the 2019/2020 New Zealand Health Survey, 24% of respondents said they had tried vaping at least once, but only 3.5% of adults reported vaping daily (Ministry of Health, 2020a). ‘Ever use’ of vaping products is very common among people who smoke tobacco: a 2017 survey of people who smoke tobacco found more than 60% of them reported having ever vaped (Guiney, Oakly, & Martin, 2019).

Of the people that had made recent quit smoking attempts, a third (32%) vaped daily or vaped on most days. The 2019 ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) Year 10 smoking survey found 3% of Year 10 students were daily vapers, and most were also daily smokers. Less than 1% of never smokers were daily vapers (ASH, 2021). However, with recent changes in the regulation of vaping products and other tobacco control measures taking effect, these figures are likely to change quite rapidly.

Stop-smoking support options for vapers

Emerging research suggests that people can use vaping products to help them transition from smoking cigarettes. Combining behavioural support with stop-smoking medication gives a person the best chance of quitting smoking. Using behavioural support with vaping products is likely to have a similar result. Both Quitline and local face-to-face stop-smoking services can support people who wish to use vaping products in their smoking cessation attempt.

Stop smoking services should:

  • be ‘vaping friendly’ towards clients who choose to use a vaping product in their quit smoking attempt
  • provide accurate information to people about the benefits and risks of vaping so that people can make an informed decision
  • be able to provide accurate advice about where people can obtain a vaping product and get advice on using and maintaining the product

Stop smoking services should also help people who wish to transition off vaping once confident that they will not relapse to smoking cigarettes.

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