But an opponent of medical-style controls says doing that would impede access to a device that has huge potential to reduce smoking harm.
Battery-powered e-cigarettes produce a vapour containing nicotine – the chemical craved by smokers. Nicotine inhalation carries some health risks – but these are far less than from inhaling the many harmful components of tobacco smoke.
Their use has surged internationally. Some use so-called ‘vaping’ to quit tobacco – others to help them smoke less. Comprehensive usage data is not collected in New Zealand but a survey by the Health Promotion Agency found the proportion of adolescents who had used an e-cigarette had nearly tripled in two years – to 20 per cent last year.
This has reinforced concerns that e-cigarettes may be a gateway for youth to nicotine addiction and smoking.
E-cigarette users can legally import nicotine for personal use. It is illegal to sell nicotine e-cigarettes although some New Zealand retailers flout the ban.
Nine researchers from Otago University and Auckland University writing in the Public Health Expert blog today suggest a range of possible rules to control potential harms of e-cigarettes, while making them legally available.