On 2 August 2016, the Ministry of Health posted a summary of its consultation on the regulation of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Currently, the sale and supply of nicotine e‑cigarettes are prohibited, although smoking tobacco, may be sold legally. Users obtain nicotine e‑cigarettes through importation and illegal local sales. The Ministry believes existing provisions for the regulation of e‑cigarettes, found primarily in the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990 (SFEA) and the Medicines Act 1981, are not adequate. The legal status of e‑cigarettes is currently confusing and, as a consequence, the laws are not routinely enforced. The Ministry is consulting on policy options for the regulation of e‑cigarettes, including possible amendments to the SFEA. This consultation aims to clarify the legal position.

The Ministry has issued – Policy Options for the Regulation of Electronic cigarettes – A consultation document– that proposes that all e-cigarettes (with and without nicotine) are made available for sale and supply lawfully in New Zealand, but that they are subject to some of the same restrictions as legal, smoked tobacco products. The consultation will also look at whether other controls for smoked tobacco products should apply to e-cigarettes, and how to enhance the quality and safety of e-cigarettes.

The Ministry says that evidence around the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes is not yet conclusive. But it is time now to develop regulations that maximise the potential benefits of e-cigarettes and minimise any risks, not only to smokers but also the wider population.

A consultation submission form with specific questions to guide submissions is due by 5 pm Monday 12 September 2016.