WELLINGTON, March 29 (Xinhua) -- The sale of nicotine- containing "vaping" equipment is to be legalized in New Zealand - but under heavy restrictions amid concerns that minors could get addicted to e-cigarettes.
"Scientific evidence on the safety of e-cigarettes is still developing, but there's a general consensus that vaping is much less harmful than smoking," Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner said in a statement Wednesday.
"The government is taking a cautious approach by aligning the regulations around vaping with those for cigarettes. This ensures cigarette smokers have access to a lower-risk alternative while we continue to discourage people from smoking or vaping in the first place."
The new rules for all e-cigarettes, whether or not they contained nicotine, included restricting sales to people aged 18 and over; restricting advertising to limit the attraction of e-cigarettes to non-smokers; and banning vaping in areas where smoking was banned.
"This is an opportunity to see if restricted access to e-cigarettes and e-liquid can help lower our smoking rates, reduce harm and save lives," Wagner said.
The changes were likely to take effect later next year
The government, in its goal to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025, has passed a law requiring tobacco products to be sold in plain packaging and is progressively ramping up tobacco taxes.
Anti-smoking groups and experts generally welcomed the change as another measure to help curb the harm caused by smoking.
However Professor Janet Hoek, of the University of Otago marketing department, said it was concerning that children might be exposed to e-cigarettes in outlets such as service stations and supermarkets.
"Overseas examples of e-cigarette marketing suggest these have used provocative themes likely to appeal to young people," Hoek said in a statement.
"There needs to be more detail about how the marketing activities seen internationally will be regulated in New Zealand to prevent these promotions from encouraging uptake among children and young people."