A new study in New Zealand has revealed that providing smokers access to alternative nicotine products like e-cigarettes is more beneficial for smoking cessation rates than substantially raising taxes on tobacco products.
The analysis from Smoke-Free Sweden found that the number of daily smokers in New Zealand has rapidly declined since 2020-2021. Over 150,000 individuals quit cigarettes in this period, largely attributed to switching to vaping.
Despite vapers now outnumbering smokers, no vaping-related hospitalizations have been reported in New Zealand in recent years.
This success occurred even as tobacco taxes in the country increased 118% over the past 13 years.
“New Zealand has shown that giving smokers access to less harmful alternatives is more effective than just taxing traditional cigarettes,” said Dr. Delon Human of Smoke-Free Sweden.
Sweden is on pace to achieve under 5% adult smoking prevalence thanks to embracing tobacco alternatives – the lowest rate in the EU. Their vaping policies have reduced tobacco-related deaths by 44% versus comparable countries.
“Data from New Zealand and Sweden shows making safer nicotine products available can save lives,” Dr. Human stated. “We call on policymakers worldwide to take notice.”
Public health groups have echoed these findings. “The New Zealand experience provides real-world evidence that vaping and other nicotine alternatives play a pivotal role in reducing smoking-related disease when made accessible,” said Nancy Loucas of the UK Vaping Industry Association.
Experts believe tax increases on their own often disproportionately impact vulnerable populations without addressing the root cause – nicotine addiction. They advise pairing taxes with easy access to vetted, regulated alternatives.
This analysis demonstrates that countries providing smokers a range of acceptable and affordable nicotine products see the greatest declines in cigarette use and associated health harms.