No vaping, pretty please

No vaping, pretty please

A vaper exhaling vape liquid. Photo credit: Rachel Moore

By Jamie-Lee Bracken, Oliver Lovell, Rachel Moore and Gordana Rodden

City bosses prefer you don’t vape in smoke-free areas around Wellington, but they won’t tell you not to – and won’t even put it on smoke-free signs.

That seemed to be the message from Wellington City Council, as it struggled to find a way through confusion among health experts about whether vaping was harmful or not.

The council’s city strategy committee voted to stiffen up its approach against vaping in yet another flip-flop about how it should respond to the so-called healthier alternative to smoking.

The council’s smoke-free action plan was tabled earlier in March but was sent back for discussion after concerns the original wording asking the public not to vape in smoke-free areas was too strong.

The wording was then softened to ‘encourage’ no vaping in smoke-free areas in the most recent version of the plan put before the committee.

However, councillors narrowly voted to go back to a slightly stronger approach after they heard from public health advocates and engaged in a lively debate about the pros and cons of vaping.

University of Otago Associate Professor George Thomson highlighted the ambiguity around vape liquid contents and the unknown risks to public health.

“Allowing vaping in smoke-free areas may signal to young people that there are no significant risks from vaping, and that it is a normal activity,” he said.

Tākiri Mai te Ata regional stop smoking service manager, Catherine Manning, said the council had “dishonoured” the voices of the public by softening the original wording.

Cancer Society health promotion manager Raewyn Sutton said that vaping could be a safer way of inhaling nicotine, but being addicted to another device should not be encouraged.

She said there was not sufficient evidence to show vaping was an effective means to quit smoking.

Seven councillors voted to revert back to the original wording and four voted against, including Mayor Justin Lester.

Councillor Brian Dawson, one of the four that voted against the back-track, said the committee recognised vaping was not as bad as smoking and while signage would try to prevent the public from smoking, there would not be signage for anti-vaping.

He said the committee knew vaping could be used to curb smoking and it was focused on educating people through vape shops about the risks.

Councillor Peter Gilberd voted for the stronger approach. He wanted “clear air in the no smoking areas.”

The council’s smoke-free plan aims to reduce Wellingtons smoking population to less than 5 percent by 2025, down from 9.5 percent in 2013.

Other actions include extend no-smoking bans to all the city’s beaches, effective in September.

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