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Legalising vaping will improve public health and save money, study finds

Posted on February 26, 2019

Making vaping products legal and more readily available will improve overall population health and result in substantial cost savings according to a new study.

The study published in the international journal Epidemiology considered all the possible benefits and harms of legalising vaping and liberalising the vaping market in New Zealand to predict the likely future impact. Vaping was legalised in New Zealand in 2018. This study helps to anticipate the net impact of the change.

Australia would also have a similar outcome if nicotine-vaping was legalised here.

Modelling studies like this estimate future risks and benefits and help to predict the outcomes of a policy change. Like all predictions, there is some uncertainty, and assumptions have to be made which were taken into account in the calculations.

Some of the assumptions used in the modelling included

  • Vaping has approximately 5% of the risk of smoking
  • An annual increase in quit rates of 14%, based on a large US study
  • Dual use (smoking and vaping) decreases the health risks by 5% compared to smoking exclusively
  • Dual users have a 5% higher chance of quitting than exclusive smokers
  • Likely transitions between non-smoking, vaping, smoking and dual use based on experience in the US
  • Uptake of vaping and smoking by some non-smokers


Legalising vaping in New Zealand was estimated to have the following effect

Each New Zealander alive in 2011 would gain 19 additional days lived in full health (the benefit is averaged over all smokers and non-smokers). There would also be savings of $NZ3.4 billion or $NZ780 per person.

Of course there would be ongoing health and financial benefits for future generations, but this was not included in the calculations.


The authors conclude

'The study supports a fairly permissive regulatory environment where vaporised nicotine products are readily available to adult smokers along with regulations that limit the risks of youth uptake'

Based on the study findings, the following policy options are suggested to get the maximum benefit from vaping

  • Light regulation of vape shops
  • No excise taxes
  • Advice for smokers on what device to use, nicotine strength
  • Standards for chemical constituents of the products to minimise risk
  • Regulations to reduce youth uptake, such as age limits on sales, bans on marketing aimed at youth and possibly restrictions on flavours that might be particularly attractive to youth

This is study very relevant to Australia and similar benefits to health and costs can be expected from legalising nicotine vaping and a light regulatory approach.


Petrovic-van der Veen FS et al. Potential country-level health and cost impacts of legalizing domestic sale of vaporized nicotine products. Epidemiology 2019

Posted by Colin Mendelsohn,

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