Primary healthcare news, information & resources

Vaping update

Smoking status classification and e-cigarette use

Questions have been raised recently around e-cigarette use and smoking status classification. Smoking refers to tobacco use, not nicotine use. Once a person stops tobacco use and uses e-cigarettes, they are considered to have stopped smoking and the standard classifications apply (trying to give up smoking, stopped smoking or ex-smoker.) If a person uses nicotine via e-cigarettes but does not use tobacco, they are considered to have stopped smoking. For more information please contact Taranaki Pinnacle MHN practice support and development facilitator Barbara Purdie.

The following vaping information has been provided by the National Training Service (NTS).

Court decision

The court case Philip Morris v Ministry of Health found all tobacco products - except chewing and dissolving types - could be lawfully sold under the Smokefree Environments Act. This means that vaping and heated tobacco products may be legally imported, sold and distributed in New Zealand.


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. However, the ban on smoking in indoor workplaces, early childhood centres and schools only applies to smoking, and not to vaping or products that are not smoked. Individual employers and business owners decide whether or not to include vaping in their smokefree policies.

Product standards

The Ministry is developing standards for vaping products, which will be consulted on in 2018 and issued as a voluntary product standard. These are expected to become mandatory when the Smokefree Environments Act is amended.

What does this mean for healthcare providers?

Smokefree policies:
  • should be updated to include vaping and other products that are not smoked (eg. heat not burn)
  • there are no legal restrictions on vaping in smokefree areas
  • whilst vaping in indoor spaces may be inappropriate, DHBs could allow vaping in outdoor spaces if they chose to.

Healthcare practitioners should provide accurate information to people about vaping, including:
  • reduced health risks compared to smoking, but not risk free
  • advice to stop smoking completely
  • ideally, aim to stop vaping eventually.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be updating its information for health care workers.

Stop smoking services:
  • should become 'e-cigarette friendly'
  • should provide accurate information to people about vaping
  • should support people who chose to use a vaping product to stop smoking, in obtaining and using a vaping product. 
See NCSCT - Electronic cigarettes: A briefing for stop smoking services.

Stop smoking practitioner programme (SSPP)

The NTS will be working with the MOH to update materials in the stop smoking practitioner programme to reflect the recent changes.


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