Find out our position on vaping based on the latest evidence.
Summary of our position
- Breathing in fresh air is best. It’s best not to smoke or vape.
- If you smoke, vaping is less harmful and could help you stop smoking. When you’re confident you won’t go back to smoking, we recommend getting support to stop vaping too.
- Vaping is not for young people and the increase in vaping among rangatahi in New Zealand is concerning.
We support further measures to regulate vaping, so that our laws strike the right balance of supporting people who vape to stop smoking while also protecting young people from vaping.
This position statement outlines the Cancer Society’s current view on electronic cigarettes (or vapes). The situation regarding vapes will continue to be reviewed as new evidence emerges and our position updated as needed.
Aotearoa’s tobacco endgame
Smoking causes over 2,000 cancer deaths each year in New Zealand and is a key driver of inequities for Māori (1). It is essential that as many people as possible are supported to become smokefree.
Aotearoa’s world leading Smokefree 2025 Action Plan (2) adopts bold tobacco endgame measures, which will greatly reduce the supply and addictiveness of smoked tobacco products. We see vaping as a short-term harm minimisation tool, which may help achieve the Smokefree Aotearoa goal.
What are vapes?
- Vapes are battery-powered devices that heat and vaporise liquid usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavourings. There are many kinds of vapes, with more being developed all the time.
- Vapes are different to ‘heat not burn’ or ‘heated tobacco’ products, which still contain tobacco. This position statement is not about ‘heat not burn’ products, which still carry similar health concerns of tobacco.
Vaping and cancer
- Research so far suggests vaping is less harmful than smoking (3).
- Vapes do not contain cancer-causing tobacco.
- Vapes usually contain nicotine, which is addictive but does not cause cancer.
- Some potentially harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, have been found in vapes, but generally at low levels and at much lower levels than in smoked tobacco (e.g., cigarettes) (3,4).
- There are no long-term studies on the effects of vaping on cancer. More research is needed to determine the long-term impact of vapes on health.
Cancer Society’s position on vaping
1. It’s best not to smoke or vape
- Breathing in fresh air is best. We support ‘Tihei Mauri Ora- Our whakapapa right to fresh air’.
- While vaping is very likely less harmful than smoking, vapes are not risk free so people who have never smoked should not use them.
2. For people who smoke, vaping could help them to stop smoking.
- The best thing people who smoke can do for their health is to be smokefree.
- For people who smoke, vaping could help their smokefree journey (5). A growing number of people in New Zealand are using e-cigarettes to help them to stop smoking (6,7,8).
- People who smoke who want to switch to vaping should talk to a stop smoking service to get the right advice and support for them. They can provide behavioural support, which increases the chances of stop smoking success (9).
- If people use vapes to stop smoking, it’s important they switch completely to vaping as soon as possible as any tobacco use is still very harmful. When they are confident they won’t go back to smoking, people should get support to stop vaping too.
3. Vaping is not for young people.
- The Cancer Society is concerned that the number of young people who are vaping is rising, particularly amongst rangatahi Māori (10, 11).
- Whilst vaping is likely less harmful physically than smoking, we share community concern about other aspects of harm (12). For example, from addiction and the financial burden of buying vaping products.
- Vapes should only have a role in helping people to stop smoking. Marketing strategies that have been used by vaping companies to target or appeal to children are unacceptable. These include packaging design, colours, flavours, and cheap disposable options (13).
- Some research suggests that young people who vape are more likely to go on to smoke (known as the ‘gateway effect’) (14). So far we have not seen this occur in New Zealand, and smoking rates continue to decline across all age groups (15). But it’s important to continue to closely monitor smoking and vaping trends.
The Cancer Society supports the following policy interventions:
The Cancer Society plays a significant role in New Zealand’s tobacco control network, which is committed to addressing the health harm caused by tobacco.
We have successfully advocated for policy to reduce the retail supply of tobacco. Our focus is now on supporting the full implementation of the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan. Integral to our work is the commitment to strengthening and extending Smokefree environments with our partners in local government.
In relation to vaping, the Cancer Society is clear that it should only be a cessation option for people who smoke. We recommend that the Government make sure our laws strike the right balance of supporting people who vape to stop smoking whilst protecting young people from vaping.
We support community and sector stakeholders who are advocating for the following measures:
- Stopping the importation and sale of all disposable vapes.
- Introducing and enforcing robust age verification procedures to prevent online and in-person sales to people under 18 years old.
- Reducing the number of places that can sell vapes taking into consideration the smoked tobacco retail reduction policy so that tobacco is not more available than vapes.
Promotion and marketing
- Stopping point-of-sale displays of vaping products in generic retail outlets.
- Requiring plain black and white packaging for vaping products (but retaining dissuasive packaging for smoked tobacco products).
- Requiring that vaping products are not visible from the street.
- Government funded free support services for people to become vapefree, particularly young people.
- Consider introducing specific excise taxes or minimum prices for vaping products if youth vaping does not decline rapidly.
The Ministry of Health should continue to closely monitor evidence from New Zealand and internationally on the impacts of vapes so that policy and practice can be rapidly updated if needed in light of emerging evidence.
Policy and practice around vapes should be reviewed and updated following the full implementation of the Smokefree Action Plan and its key endgame measures. Once implemented as planned, the Smokefree Generation will likely make vaping’s legitimacy as a cessation tool in Aotearoa redundant.
- Te Aho o Te Kahu. 2022. Pūrongo Ārai Mate Pukupuku, Cancer Prevention Report. Wellington: Te Aho o Te Kahu, Cancer Control Agency
- Ministry of Health. 2021. Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan - Auahi Kore Aotearoa Mahere Rautaki 2025. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
- McNeill A, Simonavičius E, Brose LS, Taylor E, East K, Zuikova E, Calder R and Robson D (2022). Nicotine vaping in England: an evidence update including health risks and perceptions, September 2022. A report commissioned by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. London: Office for Health Improvement and Disparities.
- Hartmann-Boyce J, Butler AR, Theodoulou A, Onakpoya IJ, Hajek P, Bullen C, Rigotti NA, Lindson N. (2023) Biomarkers of potential harm in people switching from smoking tobacco to exclusive e-cigarette use, dual use or abstinence: secondary analysis of Cochrane systematic review of trials of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. Addiction.118(3):539-545.
- Hartmann-Boyce J, Lindson N, Butler AR, McRobbie H, Bullen C, Begh R, Theodoulou A, Notley C, Rigotti NA, Turner T, Fanshawe TR, Hajek P. (2022) Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Review Issue 11. Art. No.: CD010216..
- Edwards, R et al. (2023). Electronic cigarette use among people who smoke and recent quitters in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Findings from the ITC NZ (EASE) 2020-21 survey. SRNT Conference, San Antonio, March 2023. Available at: https://www.otago.ac.nz/wellington/otago0243120.pdf Accessed July 2023
- Edwards R, Ball J, Hoek J, Waa A. (2022) Key findings in the 2021/22 NZ Health Survey: Continued rapid falls in smoking prevalence and increases in vaping. Available at: https://www.phcc.org.nz/briefing/key-findings-202122-nz-health-survey-continued-rapid-falls-smoking-prevalence-and. Accessed July 2023.
- Ministry of Health. 2023. Smoking Status of Daily Vapers. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
- Hartmann-Boyce J, Livingstone-Banks J, Ordóñez-Mena JM, Fanshawe TR, Lindson N, Freeman SC, Sutton AJ, Theodoulou A, Aveyard P. (2021) Behavioural interventions for smoking cessation: an overview and network meta‐analysis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD013229
- Action for Smokefree 2025 (ASH). 2022. ASH Year 10 Snapshot Survey 2022 Topline – Youth smoking and vaping. Available from: http://ash.org.nz
- Edwards R, Hoek J, Waa A, Ball J (2023). What is happening with vaping among adolescents and young adults in Aotearoa? Available at: https://www.phcc.org.nz/briefing/what-happening-vaping-among-adolescents-and-young-adults-aotearoa. Accessed July 2023
- Carr, E. How vape shops continue colonisation. (2023) E-Tangata. Available at: https:/ /e-tangata.co.nz/nzoa-pijf/how-vape-shops-continue-colonisation/ Accessed July 2023
- Hoek J, Ball J, Edwards R, Graham-DeMello A. DeMello Proposals to reduce youth vaping: Important steps but a more comprehensive approach needed. Available at: https://www.phcc.org.nz/briefing/proposals-reduce-youth-vaping-important-steps-more-comprehensive-approach-needed Accessed July 2023.
- Banks E, Yazidjoglou A, Brown S, Nguyen M, Martin M, Beckwith K, Daluwatta A, Campbell S, Joshy G (2023). Electronic cigarettes and health outcomes: umbrella and systematic review of the global evidence. Med J Aust. 218(6):267-275.
- Te Whatu Ora New Zealand. Smokefree Facts and Figures. Available at: https://www.smokefree.org.nz/smoking-its-effects/facts-figures. Accessed July 2023