VAPE retailers are popping up throughout Southland as the “healthier alternative” to smoking with only positive responses from customers, owners say.
While there had been much scepticism since it was introduced to New Zealand, a number of Southlanders had capitalised on the new craze.
Vape Box owner Craig Dawson, who opened the first dedicated vape shop in Invercargill in 2016, said initially people were cautious but “mostly just curious”.
“Some locals back in 2016 had not learned or understood what vaping was but over time vaping has become more common and known about.”
Mr Dawson said most of his customers had found vaping helpful to reduce or quit their smoking, often in comparatively short periods of time and without relapses.
However, the experience and success depended on each individual and whether or not they were paired with the right product for them, he said.
“We think this is because contrary to other smoking cessation aids, like nicotine patches or gums, vaping still has the hand-to-mouth movement and act of inhalation which is a more similar experience to smoking.”
He said the vast majority of his customers had taken up vaping in order to quit smoking and in turn, saved money and reduced harm.
Mr Dawson based his opinions around the health risks of vaping on current scientific evidence, he said.
“A widely cited study by Public Health England in 2015 has found vaping to be around 95% less harmful than smoking.
Since then, many studies have been carried out and so far, the finding has held up.”
However, he acknowledged more research could be done and vaping should not be assumed to be completely harm-free.
E-liquid used in vapourisers included only four ingredients, vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, flavouring and a choice of nicotine level, if desired.
The Vape Box committed to ethical standards by following the Vaping Trade Association guidelines to “self-regulate” until NZ regulations were introduced, he said.
LNB Vape directors Brenden Maere and Alister Sands started their vape shop in Invercargill about two years ago and also recommended it as a healthier alternative to smoking.
Mr Maere said his oldest customer, who was 92 years old, had successfully made the switch from smoking to vaping a year ago after smoking for 50 years.
“We’ll ask people how many cigarettes they’re having a day, whether it’s rollies or taylor-made cigarettes, and then make a judgement on what product and nicotine strength will suit them best.”
His customers ranged from ages 18-92, the majority of who were vaping to quit smoking, he said.
Mr Maere and Mr Dawson agreed there were a lot of misconceptions about the health risks of vaping.
They also said they would be open to working with Southland-based smoking cessation services to help people make the switch.
Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust chief executive officer Tracey Wright-Tawha said the organisation supported vaping as a tool for smoking cessation.
“Research is in its early stages and reflects vaping to be safer than tobacco products, we support harm minimisation approaches that achieve a quit outcome.”
On its website, The Ministry of Health also supported vaping as a way to assist people in quitting smoking for good.