Packaging restrictions for smokeless tobacco make no sense
It is absurd that plain packaging rules implemented today will also apply to less harmful alternatives, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.
Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says, “From today, plain packaging and compulsory gruesome health warnings will apply not just to cigarettes, but also to smokeless alternatives like heated tobacco, snus, and tobacco-derived vape liquid.”
“The Government should welcome people switching away from smoking, but it appears that they would rather smokers kept puffing the durries and paying the excise tax. Smokers currently pay $1.9 billion in excise tax a year. If they switched to less harmful options like vapes, heated tobacco or snus, they would be saving money and potentially their own lives.”
“Smokeless products don’t combust, meaning users aren’t exposed to the same harmful compounds as cigarette smokers. Overseas, people use these products to quit cigarettes – a good decision for their health and wallet.”
“There’s no smoke involved in vaping, snus, or heated tobacco, and yet 13 of the 14 compulsory warnings explicitly mention ‘smoking’. This is a clear case of regulation lagging behind technology and common sense.”
“In addition, packaging restrictions will apply on top of existing rules that make it illegal to communicate to smokers about less harmful the reduced harmfulness of smokeless tobacco products. The Government says it plans to review tobacco tax laws: let’s do it now so we can clear the air around smokeless products.”
You can read more about the issues (and write to your local MP) here: www.cleartheair.nz
About the author
A message of hope for smokers
A few weeks ago, I wrote in Insights that public health policy works in mysterious ways.
I stand by that statement.
As a teaser for The New Zealand Initiative’s latest report Smoke and Vapour: the changing world of tobacco harm reduction, I wrote that there was some frustration that the Labour-led government had not yet expressed a position on e-cigarettes.
I also noted that there are a range of other nicotine delivery products available overseas (snus and heat-not-burn) that should be made available in New Zealand to help people cut down or quit smoking.
Just days before the launch of Smoke and Vapour, something exciting happened.
The Ministry of Health announced that all tobacco products (except for tobacco that is chewed or dissolved in the mouth) can be lawfully imported, sold and distributed in New Zealand. This includes vaping products, heat-not-burn products and possibly snus.
This is an excellent step for the country, and for the future of smokers wanting to quit.
But there is still work to be done.
The Ministry will be considering how best to apply risk-proportionate regulations across these products. In the meantime, retailers are encouraged to continue trading responsibly.
Smoke and Vapour makes some recommendations on how these products should be regulated. Though legalisation is an important first step, our report argues that regulations should not inhibit smokers’ access to these products.
Applying tobacco-style regulations (advertising restrictions, standardised packaging, excise) to products that are less harmful than cigarettes would be counterproductive to New Zealand’s wider smoke-free policies and aspirations. It also sends the misleading and damaging message that these products are as risky as smoking, so people might as well smoke.
Risk-proportionate regulations should not automatically mean risk averse. The potential benefits of these products need to be considered alongside the potential risks.
This interregnum will be an important time for retailers to demonstrate that regulations can and should be light-touch. Monitoring the uptake of these products should also inform whether potential risks (like significant uptake of these products by minors) are realised or remain hypothetical.
For smokers who have struggled to quit, or who want to reduce the harms of smoking but do not want to give up nicotine, the future is looking optimistic.
Scientific understanding has developed to point the finger at the real culprit of smoking-related harm: combustion. Technology has developed to produce a range of nicotine delivery products that can compete on price, effectiveness, and consumer acceptability.
And now, it seems New Zealand public health policy is catching up too.
From the Ministry of Health
Vaping, smokeless, including heated tobacco
Vaping products are electrical devices that produce a vapour by heating a solution (e-liquid). Smokeless tobacco are a diverse group of products that are promoted as being potentially less harmful alternatives to tobacco smoking.
9 May 2018: In Philip Morris v Ministry of Health  NZDC 4478 (the decision), the District Court found that all tobacco products (except types that are chewed or dissolved in the mouth) may be lawfully imported, sold and distributed under the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 (SFEA).
The Crown has not appealed the decision.
Therefore, the same SFEA regulatory controls apply to smoked tobacco, heated tobacco and vaping products that are manufactured from tobacco. This includes the ban on sales to minors and restrictions on advertising.
The ban on smoking in indoor workplaces, early childhood centres and schools only applies to smoking. It does not apply to vaping or products that are not smoked, such as heated tobacco products. Individual employers and business owners decide whether or not to include vaping in their smokefree policies.
The Ministry of Health is considering how best to apply risk-proportionate regulation across all tobacco products including smoked tobacco, smokeless tobacco and vaping products.
Until the SFEA is amended, retailers should continue to trade responsibly and, in particular, not to advertise or sell vaping products to children and young people under 18 years of age.
Consumers of vaping products should not notice any difference as nicotine vaping liquid has been available for purchase in retail shops for some time.
Heated tobacco products might also become available for sale in New Zealand.
Is New Zealand’s Smoke-free 2025 Initiative on Track?
A number of organizations in New Zealand have been voicing their frustration at the local government, for dragging its feet in implementing regulations that would help achieve the stipulated Smoke-free goal.
In March 2017, associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner had said that e-cigarettes would be legalized and that New Zealand was adopting a low risk approach since scientific evidence about the safety of e-cigarettes is still being developed. However, a year later, no formal action has yet been taken to initiate the legalization process.
Similarly, the following August, the Kiwi health ministry had made another announcement, this time saying that smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco, snus and inhaled nicotine, were going to be added to the list of legalized products, as part of the Smokefree 2025 campaign. Yet once again, nothing to this effect has been done.NZ Smokeless Tobacco Co (NZSTC), is amongst the organizations speaking up against the local authorities’ lack of action, and its pointing out that unless something is done, the Smoke-Free 2025 goal will not be reached.
“Our organisation has approached both health ministers regarding Nationals New Pathway to Smokeless Alternatives and Nicotine Delivery Products and their replies were, ‘I am still considering the proposals from the previous Government’ which quite frankly is not good enough!” said co-founder of NZSTC, Miles Illemann.
The advantage in embracing harm reduction products
The NZSTC wants to point out that cigarettes are the deadliest tobacco products one can consume and that e-cigarettes and other smokeless tobacco products like snus, could play a major role in decreasing smoking rates.
Snus is a moist powder tobacco product that is placed under the upper lip for extended periods. It is considered as an effective harm reduction product which has helped thousands quit smoking. This product is especially popular in Norway and Sweden, and in fact the popularity of snus has led to these two countries reporting the lowest rates of lung cancer in Europe.
Similarly, the UK, a country that has fully endorsed the use of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation tools, is now boasting the second lowest smoking rates in Europe, second only to Sweden.
NZ Smokeless Tobacco Co (NZSTC) has said it is appalled by the lack of ideas being put forward by the New Zealand government to fast track the race for ‘Smoke-free 2025’.
“Our organisation has approached both health ministers regarding Nationals New Pathway to Smokeless Alternatives and Nicotine Delivery Products and their replies were, ‘I am still considering the proposals from the previous government’ which quite frankly is not good enough!,” said Miles Illemann, co-founder of NZSTC.
In a press note, NZSTC acknowledged that New Zealand was suffering a crime wave underpinned by the cigarette black market, but, it added, having organizations such as Action on Smoking and Health and British American Tobacco arguing over spilt milk was not helping.
‘We need change and that’s what New Zealanders want, like the NZDF [New Zealand Defence Force] going smoke-free in 2020 …,’ the note said.
‘NZSTC wants to clear up a few things when talking about tobacco. Firstly, it is cigarettes causing the deaths. Yes, they are tobacco, but it is the way … [in] which it is consumed that is the problem. If we look at the “Swedish Experience” regarding oral tobacco like snus, studies show that it is the most effective way to quit smoking with no risk of cancer. Therefore, cigarettes should be the word of choice used to attack the problem because if we are wanting this government to change, we need to remove the stigma that cigarettes have on tobacco.
‘If we look at Norway for example, we see that by snus being readily available to smokers, the ability to change the statistics around to meet our goals in 2025 is quite possible. It’s not going to happen from plain packaging or any other way except for healthy alternatives to nicotine through a harm reduction strategy.
‘Let’s remember that we are living in a democracy, people have the freedom of choice. We shouldn’t be thinking about taking things away from the people but giving them more healthy options like we have seen in the past with e-cigarettes.’
Uncertainty in the race for Smoke-free 2025…
NZ Smokeless Tobacco Co is appalled by the lack of solutions from the Government to fast track outcomes to achieve this uncertain goal.
Miles Illemann, Co-Founder of NZSTC, said, “our organisation has approached both health ministers regarding Nationals New Pathway to Smokeless Alternatives and Nicotine Delivery Products and their replies were, ‘I am still considering the proposals from the previous Government’ which quite frankly is not good enough!”
Yes, New Zealand has a crisis on its hands around the crime from the cigarette black market trade but having organisations like ASH and BAT arguing over spilt milk is not helping this process.
We need change and that’s what New Zealanders want, like the NZDF going smoke-free in 2020 and are already using smokeless alternatives to help them quit.
NZSTC wants to clear up a few things when talking about tobacco. Firstly, it is cigarettes causing the deaths. Yes, they are tobacco, but it is the way of which it is consumed that is the problem. If we look at the “Swedish Experience” regarding oral tobacco like snus, studies show that it is the most effective way to quit smoking with no risk of cancer. Therefore, cigarettes should be the word of choice used to attack the problem because if we are wanting this Government to change, we need to remove the stigma that cigarettes have on tobacco.
If we look at Norway for example, we see that by snus being readily available to smokers, the ability to change the statistics around to meet our goals in 2025 is quite possible. It’s not going to happen from plain packaging or any other way except for healthy alternatives to nicotine through a harm reduction strategy.
Let’s remember that we are living in a democracy, people have the freedom of choice. We shouldn’t be thinking about taking things away from the people but giving them more healthy options like we have seen in the past with e-cigarettes.
Let’s Do This … Smokefree 2025
Press Release: NZ Smokeless Tobacco Co
LET’S DO THIS… SMOKEFREE 2025
Smokefree 2025 is only seven years away, and New Zealand is running out of time.
Action for Smokefree 2025 says that the goal is to get smoking rates below 5% by 2025, however at the current rate of decline it will take until 2040.
In August, then-Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner announced plans to establish a pre-market approval system for smokeless tobacco and nicotine-delivery products, other than e-cigarettes. An amendment to the Smokefree Environments Act was planned to be introduced into Parliament early this year.
So far, the new Labour-led Government has not mentioned anything on this matter.
“This is a massive concern, as we are still losing around 5000 Kiwis a year to smoking,” director of NZ Smokeless Tobacco Co, Miles Illemann says.
Since the birth of the 2025 smokefree goal set out in 2011, there has been no word on a Government plan in order to achieve this goal.
“With the current statistics relating to smoking prevalence in New Zealand, we are at a shocking 15% of the total population smoking every day.”
NZ Smokeless Tobacco Co believes it’s time the Ministry of Health addressed this issue in Parliament and starts looking into the “Swedish experience” and how Sweden reduced their smoking rates from 17% down to 5% using snus over a ten-year period.
Snus (pronounced snoos) is a moist tobacco pouch that is placed between the gum and upper lip. There has been no evidence to show that it has any links to cancer whatsoever.
Bengt Wiberg, the founder of Swedish-based company Sting Free Snus, and a highly regarded expert in the field of reduced harm strategy, says “a snus revolution is coming to the world”.
NZ Smokeless Tobacco Co is calling for the Government to take action and create access for less-harmful tobacco products like snus.
“We need to be taking this matter very seriously, as New Zealand is on the world stage for being a progressive country and this is an excellent opportunity to set the example and save thousands of lives in do so,” Illemann says.
“This will be a good show of faith by the Ministry of Health if they started taking action immediately.”
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Press Release: End Smoking NZ For immediate release
Support for smoke-free alternatives key to Smokefree 2025 goal
The Government’s recent decision to legalise nicotine for e-cigarette vaping shows just how serious it is about New Zealand Smokefree 2025 goal, according to a group of leading public health researchers.
The lobby group, End Smoking, strongly believes that giving smokers access to less harmful alternatives to smoking tobacco will greatly speed efforts to reduce smoking to 5% or below – the Smokefree 2025 goal.
“The Associate Minister of Health Nicky Wagner is to be congratulated for having the vision to open up access to nicotine for vaping so that lower socioeconomic, Māori, Pacific and rural smokers have a chance to try switching to a less harmful product. It’s these groups with stable higher rates of smoking that her policy change will help the most” said End Smoking’s Chair Associate Professor Marewa Glover.
Currently nicotine containing electronic cigarettes and liquid cannot be legally imported for sale. New Zealand smokers interested in switching to e-cigarettes can only legally access nicotine e-liquid from overseas when they travel or by ordering it from overseas suppliers.
“Our End Smoking research, and preliminary results from a Health Promotion Agency survey suggest that males more than females have accessed electronic cigarettes so far” said Dr Penny Truman, a co-investigator of End smoking’s survey of vapers.
Preliminary results from the Health Promotion Agency’s 2016 Health & Lifestyle Survey found that 17% of adults aged 15 and over had tried an e-cigarette, but only 2.7% were vaping at the time of the survey. Of them almost half were vaping to help them completely stop smoking and a further 29% were trying to cut down how much they smoked.
“Many groups are not reducing their smoking. This was one of our main concerns in our submission on the Ministry of Health’s electronic cigarette discussion document last September. We were relieved to see almost all of our recommendations are reflected in the proposed Amendment” said Associate Professor Glover.
“One remaining concern we have, however, is that the Associate Minister has indicated that other types of greatly harm-reduced alternatives to smoking products will have no place in New Zealand.”
Talking about Philip Morris’ iQos product, Associate Minister Nicky Wagner said on TVNZ’s Sunday (21 May) programme, “it may be that in other countries there is capacity for them but I don’t think New Zealand is really the place for them.”
While recognizing that the evidence for reduced harm needs to be soundly established, End Smoking’s position, as detailed in their submission to the Government, is that “No one cessation product or alternative nicotine delivery product will help every smoker either switch off or abstain from smoking tobacco. A range of products is required. We should not limit New Zealand smokers to just one type of e-cigarette or just one type of greatly harm-reduced alternative to smoking product.” They will be resubmitting this next week when the Ministry of Health begins a new round of consultation on Emerging Tobacco and Nicotine Delivery Products.
End Smoking’s submission to the Ministry of Health on Electronic Cigarettes is available on their website www.endsmoking.org.nz
Associate Professor Marewa Glover – Ph: 027 27 57 852
Dr Penny Truman – Ph: 027 664 4504
Not to be sniffed at: more Norwegians turn from cigarettes to snuff
Snus is illegal across the EU but is used in Sweden, which has an exemption, and Norway, which is not in the EU
More Norwegians use snus – a form of snuff particular to Nordic countries – instead of cigarettes for their nicotine fix, official figures showed for the first time on Thursday.
The preference for snus in Norway, is certain to revive debate over the health effects of the product, a moist powder tobacco that is popped under the lip.
Though its sale is illegal across the EU, it is manufactured and used in Sweden, which has an exemption, and Norway, which is not an EU member.
According to Norway’s statistics office SSB, 12% of Norwegians used snus daily in 2017, compared with 11% who smoked cigarettes every day.
Under Oslo’s ambitious anti-tobacco policy, Norway became one of the first countries in the world to ban smoking in public places in June 2004.
Cigarettes cost around 11 euros ($13.50) a pack, and Norway adopted neutral packaging last year.
Cigarette smoking has halved since 2007, when daily smokers made up 22% of the population.
But snus consumption has taken off, steadily gaining on cigarettes. In 2016, 12% were daily smokers while 10% used snus, which cost a little over nine euros a box.
The product, which became popular in the 18th century, has become a target for tobacco-busters.
In November, the government won a lawsuit against producer Swedish Match which refused to sell its snus in neutral packaging. Swedish Match has appealed the ruling.
New pathway for smokeless tobacco productsWednesday, August 02, 2017
The Government will establish a pre-market approval system for smokeless tobacco and nicotine-delivery products, other than e-cigarettes, Associate Health Minister Nicky Wagner says.
This follows a decision in March to legalise the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes.
“There are a number of products available internationally — including heat-not-burn, snus, moist snuff, dissolvables and inhaled nicotine — that may be significantly less harmful than tobacco smoking,” Ms Wagner says.
“By creating a pathway to enable the sale of these products in New Zealand, smokers will have access to less harmful alternatives.
“The Government is proceeding cautiously. Manufacturers will need to demonstrate their products are significantly less harmful than tobacco smoking and that their introduction into New Zealand will contribute to a smokefree future.”
Any approved products will need to comply with tobacco-style requirements, including sale restrictions.
To ensure an efficient approval system and to minimise costs, the regulator will have the ability to take into account any product approvals made by trusted overseas regulators and utilise any suitable international standards.
“The Government is taking a sustained, evidence-based approach to reducing smoking. This is yet another way we can help Kiwis kick the habit for good,” Ms Wagner says.
An amendment to the Smokefree Environments Act will be introduced into Parliament in early 2018.
For more information, visit: http://www.health.govt.nz/smokeless-tobacco-and-nicotine-delivery-products
Oral tobacco plea from anti-smoking group
30 Mar, 2007 11:44am
An anti-smoking group is calling for tax cuts on a type of Swedish oral tobacco after a New Zealand review found it carries lower health risks than smoking.
The study by the Christchurch School of Medicine reviews the health effects of snus, a ground-up form of tobacco sold in pouches like tiny teabags. They are put under the lip to deliver nicotine.
Snus is modified to be low in cancer-causing agents found in tobacco.
The study, a review of 18 studies, found it was considerably safer than smoking but still carried greater risks than not using tobacco at all.
Snus has divided the international anti-smoking community. Some see it as a way ahead for quit-smoking schemes, while others fear it will lead to non-smokers becoming addicted to a less-than-healthy product, or smokers switching and staying on it.
The medical school report comes days before Swedish Match, a maker of the product – also called oral snuff, begins selling its nasal snuff at some New Zealand tobacconists.
The nasal version is inhaled and comes in a powdered form.
By law, oral snuff cannot be sold in New Zealand and can be imported only for personal use. Nasal snuff, in contrast, is allowed.
The medical school report, by researcher Marita Broadstock, found snus users had a lower risk than smokers of head, neck and gastro-intestinal cancers.
Snus users also had no higher risk of these cancers than people who did not use tobacco in any form.
Five out of six studies of cardiovascular disease risks – mainly heart disease and stroke – in men found “no significantly increased prevalence” of the diseases for snus users compared with no tobacco use.
However, one study found a moderately-increased risk of death in snus users from cardiovascular disease and from all causes. But, among smokers, all the studies found strong positive links to major cardiovascular events.
In maternity, snus use was linked to low birthweight and premature birth when compared to no tobacco use.
Smokeless New Zealand, a group that encourages smokeless nicotine delivery en-route to a tobacco-free future, cites the new study as support for allowing sales of low-risk Swedish snus and reducing its tax level.
Chairman Dr Murray Laugesen said people who imported snus for personal use reported paying $15 a can once all costs were included.
“It’s more expensive than roll-your-owns. That is ridiculous that we have a tax system that makes dangerous smoking tobacco cheaper than smokeless snuff.”
But the Ministry of Health, which commissioned the Christchurch study, remains cautious on snus, hoping new nicotine products will help to more rapidly reduce New Zealand’s rate of smoking, still stuck above 20 per cent for adults.
Chief public health adviser Dr Ashley Bloomfield said more research on snus was needed and pointed to Auckland University’s trials of tobacco-free nicotine products: a nasal spray, oral pouch and lozenge.
“Ideally, if we could move to a situation where we had fast-acting oral or other new products that were non-tobacco that may well provide a more promising way forward.”
But permission had also been granted for a Wellington researcher to import oral snus for research, for which Health Research Council funding has been sought, on the acceptability of the product to New Zealanders.