New Zealand’s former Associate Health Minister, Dr Ayesha Verrall, who has famously spoken of the importance of embracing the use of safer nicotine alternatives for tobacco harm reduction, has now been appointed Minister of Health and Minister for Research, Science, and Innovation.
“The appointment of Dr Ayesha Verrall as New Zealand’s Health Minister is good news for the country’s collective effort to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” said Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates).
“Dr Verrall understands better than anyone that to who has famously reiterated the importance the harm from combustible tobacco, viable safer nicotine products must be available for smokers to successfully make the switch,” added Loucas.
Loucas highlighted that Verrall was able to maintain her stance despite pressure form lobbying entities. “She appreciates the role of vaping in Smokefree 2025 and remains 100% focused on combustible tobacco – the real scourge and killer in our society,” she said, adding that Verrall’s appointment will help achieve the smokefree goal.
An inclusive stance
Last year Verrall was commended for engaging with a number of health entities gathering opinions about the Government’s Smoke-free action plan, before finalizing it. Loucas had said that ministerial diary records show that Dr. Verrall held teleconferences ahead of releasing the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan discussion document for public consultation. The consulted groups included ASH, Hapai te Hauora, and the NZ College of Physicians.
Loucas said that the fact that these groups were consulted is a very good sign because they are aware of the role vaping products and other nicotine safer alternatives can play in reducing smoking rates. “These groups are very supportive of vaping’s key role in smoking cessation. It’s very encouraging then that Dr. Verrall is prepared to listen to their on the ground experiences before she finalizes her smokefree action plan.”
“If we are to achieve the country’s decade long smokefree ambition then vaping’s role needs to be elevated in public policy and programmes. Otherwise, we will never get there. Thankfully, we now have a Minister with considerable public health experience who understands the practice of Tobacco Harm Reduction,” she added.