Guest Post: Terry Barnes – Kiwis have got it right on vaping, leaving Chapman fuming

While nanny state McCarthyists of public health rule the roost in Australian harm reduction, thank heavens our Kiwi cousins across the Dutch have their heads sensibly screwed on.

This week, >the New Zealand government announced it will be legislating to make nicotine-containing vaping devices legally available to New Zealand’s half a million smokers.  Furthermore, these devices will be sold as retail products to over 18s in direct competition with cigarettes, not as prescription-only, highly-restricted therapeutic products.

As far as I’m aware, this is the first time a Western jurisdiction has moved to make illegal nicotine-containing devices legal, as opposed to regulating them from a starting point of legality.  That in itself is a huge breach in the Atlantic Wall of the repressive tobacco-control dictatorship.

This is good and sound policy addressing significant health and social pressures.  Like Australia, New Zealand has particular problems with smoking rates in disadvantaged communities.  While the general smoking rate is around 15 per cent of the population, in the Maori community it is more than double that.  The Key government is embracing nicotine-containing e-cigarettes as part of its aspirational strategy to make New Zealand smoke-free by 2025. What’s more, the decision has been welcomed across the New Zealand political spectrum, including by the Labour opposition.  That in itself indicates the government’s intention to have the legislation in place by year’s end will happen.

It is also accepting that thousands of law-abiding New Zealand vapers are breaking the existing law by importing their own nicotine-containing vaping liquids for their personal use.  The Internet has made the legal ban of these substances all but unenforceable, and the government sensibly recognises that sensible regulation is better than allowing inferior-quality vaping devices and liquids to sneak through the back door.

Most importantly, however, Kiwi politicians, bureaucrats and public health advisers are accepting that while scientific evidence is still accumulating, vaping is far safer than smoking, and the more smokers turn to vaping the less they are at risk of the death, illness and permanent damage that thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke – other than nicotine – cause.  By effectively declaring tobacco smoke, not nicotine, as the real enemy, the Key government recognises denying people convenient access to these devices keeps them exposed to life-threatening ciggies to get their nicotine fix.

Unlike Australia, where public health zealots like anti-tobacco talking head Simon Chapman have our risk-averse politicians by the short and curlies – just witness the recent craven capitulation by Victoria’s Liberal opposition to the Andrews government’s legislation aimed at suppressing vaping in that state, unquestioningly accepting the views anti-vaping zealotry of Quit Victoria and the Cancer Council as absolute gospel – New Zealand politicians are bringing common sense and lighter-touch regulation to the table.  Instead of genuflecting at the altar of the high priests of the nanny state, they are willing to give disruptive innovation a go to show vaping the benefit of the doubt, instead of strangling it in its infancy as our governments are.

The New Zealand government has started consultations on the final shape of its legislation.  Unlike the secret Chapman-led whitewash policy review exercise in Australia (which I exposed here on Catallaxy), the Kiwi consultations are open to everyone.  A consultation paper has been released outlining the current proposals: as my IEA colleague Christopher Snowdon has noted, it’s not (yet) as liberal as it could be, but is very much a huge step in the right direction.  I’m planning to make a submission: I’m interested in seeing whether my ever-tweeting adversary Professor Chapman does likewise.

Australian politicians should sit up and take enthusiastic notice of the enlightened thinking of their Kiwi cousins, not just on this but on their more enlightened approaches to alcohol and other substance harm reduction. The lesson from New Zealand is defying the diktats of self-referential nanny statist bureaucrats and public health zealots can actually be popular.  Memo to Victorian Liberals Matthew Guy and Mary Wooldridge, who can still rein in the excesses of the Andrews Bill before it passes: instead of fearing the wrath of self-righteous public health panjandrums, you actually can politely say “up yours” to them in the interests of good policy and sensible regulation.

Meanwhile, the likes of Professor Chapman are fuming, and watching their confusion is a very enjoyable side effect of New Zealand’s latest example of government by common sense.

Terry Barnes is a policy consultant, was a senior policy adviser to federal health ministers Michael Wooldridge and Tony Abbott, and is a part-time Australian fellow of the UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs


As I was finishing this article, the Therapeutic Goods Administration announced (link) it will be initiating a public consultation on an application to permit the use of nicotine in vaping devices as well as combustible cigarettes.  Will Kiwi-style common sense prevail here too, or will the usual public health Luddites make sure that no further holes are made in their Atlantic Wall?  Watch this space…

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24 Responses to Guest Post: Terry Barnes – Kiwis have got it right on vaping, leaving Chapman fuming

  1. Tel says:

    You would think this would be a quick and easy thing for Turnbull to make a “captains call” over which would be popular for a change (both popular with the libertarians and those handful of conservatives who still believe in personal freedom, and also popular amongst the working class who would probably live longer and healthier lives, and have more choices available).

    Even if Turnbull wanted to keep face with his “Doctor’s Wife” buddies, he could at least throw it to the party and probably get a bit of Senate support. Come to think of it, has anyone asked Pauline about her policy on healthy consumption of vaporised stimulants?

  2. Gab says:

    Kiwi pollies have a lot more common sense than Australian politicians. They are less inclined to be nanny state Hitlers too.

  3. . says:

    I love vaping. Then again I love cigars, cigarillos and my tobacco pipe.

    Vaping is good – it is inexpensive, healthy and allows the rich and poor alike to have aesthetic experiences.

    “My body not the governments!” If it is good enough for women it is good enough for us all.

  4. Zyconoclast says:

    Don’t ever use the leftist smear McCarthyists.
    Joe McCarthy was a good and brave man.

  5. Mother Lode says:

    Regarding the post script – I suspect the Nannies are alarmed at what happened in NZ so are setting up the consultation in their own time and on their own grounds so as to prevent any real discussion.

    They will not relinquish any control they can avoid, and our leaders – quivering in a puddle of their own making if the ABC so much as looks even vaguely interested in some part of their portfolios, will never push them.

  6. zaphod says:

    “Kiwi pollies have a lot more common sense than Australian politicians. They are less inclined to be nanny state Hitlers too. ” …Yep. Dealt with gay marriage, and moved on to more important things.

  7. BRUCE ROGERS says:

    Well said Mr Barnes !
    Our politicians are too dumb to understand the benefits that would come from making vaping available to all over 18.
    Spineless cretins that do not serve the public !

  8. classical_hero says:

    Don’t ever use the leftist smear McCarthyists.
    Joe McCarthy was a good and brave man

    Yes he was and it’s frustrating to see people forget that.

  9. I am the Walras, Equilibrate, and Price-Take says:

    In the United Caliphate of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the government uses tax dollars to buy and distribute, for free vaping machines, as a public health measure to get the massa damnata off the cancer sticks.

    In some respects, we really are the stupidest country.

  10. Baldrick says:

    You can bet the hand-wringers from the government funded cancer councils will be gnashing their teeth and rending their garments at any proposal to legalise liquid nicotine. The howler monkey’s will be screeching for blood and cry-bullying the TGA into submission to ensure that word nicotine is struck from the English language.

  11. incoherent rambler says:

    Might save us from a prison riot or two.

    Seriously, by what right should the government decree what we ingest? Much less what we say or think or write or fart …

  12. Chris says:

    Chapman and Alpers may for free have the contents of my chamber-pot.

  13. MsDolittle says:

    It costs me $23 for 2yrs worth of nicotine pleasure. Velvet Glove is my second favourite site.

  14. Anne says:

    Great community service there, Eliza.

    For the smokers, that is.

  15. Baa Humbug says:

    My father and one older brother died of cancer from smoking. After smoking for 40+ years and numerous tries at quitting, I gave vaping a go at the end of May this year. Haven’t touched a dart since.
    I imported 200mls of nicotine, purchased some Vegetable Glycerine and flavourings and am now happily vaping at near zero nicotine levels (3mg/ml) and having fun mixing my own vaping juice and the hundreds of combinations of flavours. No cravings if I don’t vape for a few hours.
    I’ve been following the shennanigans both here, and in the USA by their FDA and it is clear to me that vested interests are using their financial power and influence to stop people from vaping. They don’t give a damn about the health of the people, they just want to continue to making millions upon millions from selling government subsidised and promoted nicotine replacement gear.
    Follow the money, always follow the money.

  16. Mark Riseley says:

    Great perspective and well said Terry Barnes.
    Australian TC agenda is now squeezed between NZ rational thinking and UK evidence.

  17. Mark says:

    but, but…think of the children.

  18. old bloke says:

    Sensible Pollies, yet another reason to move to NZ.

  19. old bloke says:

    I meant to add, there was a bong shop in Perth selling nicotine vaping cartridges so the Barnett Government sent the Police in to crack down on this wicked practice. They didn’t send in Mr. Plod, they sent in the SWAT Team.

  20. . says:

    old bloke
    #2110677, posted on August 5, 2016 at 12:31 pm
    I meant to add, there was a bong shop in Perth selling nicotine vaping cartridges so the Barnett Government sent the Police in to crack down on this wicked practice. They didn’t send in Mr. Plod, they sent in the SWAT Team.

    Disgusting. I used to want to become lawyer to stand up to this BS now I just want to leave.

  21. Tezza says:

    Thanks for a great update, Terry. When you say ‘watch this space’, can we count on you please to keep us up to date on the opportunities to make input to the TGA process? My quick look at the TGA site suggests it is designed through skilful jargon and terms of regulatory art to keep the hoi polloi away. I (a non-smoker, non-vaper) have made submissions to the ACT Government and David Leyonhjelm’s Parliamentary committee on legalising and indeed facilitating vaping as part of an evidence -based public health policy, and would like to add my voice to the TGA process. I know I will be ignored, but simply registering the arguments and evidence (hopefully on a site on which the TGA will make received submissions public) will make it more difficult for our betters to pretend there are no contrary views or evidence to their preferred line.

  22. Skippy says:

    We were actually seriously considering moving back to the UK – especially since sticking it to the EU, but NZ is looking more and more attractive – government that runs on evidence based policy is such a turn on!

    (OK, they haven’t quite got there with helmet laws, so the evidence thing isn’t universal – but they are still making us look like a pack of convicts happy to be led by goose stepping twats…)

  23. Mandy Mclean says:

    Cigarette free for 2 years July 2016. Patches which are legal & which places nicotine directly into the blood stream are TGA approved. Patches did not work for me while eCigs did. One really has to wonder if the government really have concerns of our health or if their addiction to tobacco tax is greater than the smokers addiction to nicotine. Let’s hope common sense prevails.

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