New Zealand has taken a similar approach towards e-cigarettes as that employed by the UAE and has seen mixed results in the number of smokers switching towards less harmful alternatives.
The country has around 550,000 daily smokers, and aims to be smoke free by 2025.
In 2017, the Cabinet of Social Policy Committee decided in principal to legalise the sale of e-cigarettes with appropriate controls, although a recent change of government has stalled those plans.
While individuals can import up to three-months supply of nicotine containing products for personal use, it is illegal to sell or supply the products.
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Despite the ban on sales, New Zealand allows vaping in smoke-free places.
“Current legislation in NZ is not ideal and has created a messy situation,” said Professor Hayden McRobbie, clinical director of the Dragon Institute for Innovation, and a professor in public health interventions at the Queen Mary University of London.
“Most people are in agreement there should be an 18 age restriction on using these products and further restrictions on advertising.
“There is also widespread agreement that e-cigarettes have the potential to make an impact on New Zealand’s 2025 smoke free goal and improve public health by offering a route out of smoking, without offering a gateway to smoking for children and non-smokers.”
Proposed changes to the law on e-cigarettes in the country include a ban on vaping in workplaces and other no-smoking areas, but to allow all retailers to display e-cigarettes and liquids at point of sale.
Restrictions on advertising and the sale to under-18s will remain prohibited.
The daily smoking rate is about 13.8 per cent of the population in New Zealand, but it is about 42 per cent in the indigenous Maori population.
In a nationwide survey, 17 per cent of smokers said they had tried e-cigarettes, and 3 per cent were regular users.
Amongst those who vape on a regular basis in New Zealand, a variety of reasons were given for taking up e-cigarettes, despite them being banned from sale.
Almost half who admitted using e-cigarettes said they did so to help quit smoking altogether with 46 per cent using e-cigarettes as they acknowledged them to be less harmful.
A further 36 per cent said they vaped as it was cheaper than tobacco, while 35 per cent said a preferred smell was the reason for switching.
Just 29 per cent said they took e-cigarettes to help reduce the number of conventional tobacco products they were smoking.
A survey of more than 600 smokers conducted by The National in March found more than half had tried e-cigarettes or e-pipes for a nicotine hit in the UAE since a 100 per cent ‘sin tax’ had been introduced in October.
“It is clear these products are aimed at people who smoke, but the best advice remains that they should be looking to quit smoking completely,” Mr McRobbie said.
“We should be supporting people who have tried to quit and failed, by encouraging the use of e-cigarettes.”