Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) has welcomed proposed new measures to address the serious problem of vaping among New Zealand’s tamariki and rangatahi.
The new regulations include a capping of vape stores to 600 nationwide, a requirement for all retailers to obtain a license to sell vapes and harsher penalties for those selling to young people.
“We are heartened that the Labour Party is moving in the right direction with these measures because our tamariki and rangatahi need protection,” HCA Smoke-free Expert Advisory Group member and Takiri Mai te Ata Regional Stop Smoking Service Whanau Ora Collective regional manager, Catherine Manning said.
The Health Coalition called for a “nicotine-free generation” policy to protect against the harms of nicotine addiction through vaping in its submission on the Government’s Smoke-free 2025 action plan in August 2022.
Ms Manning said licensing should be applied to individuals who sell vaping products, as well as retailers.
“Individual sellers should also be required to obtain a license for both vaping and smoked tobacco products and should lose their license for any breaches,” she said.
Evidence from the ASH Year 10 surveys since 2015 suggests a generation of school children has become quickly addicted to very high levels of nicotine.
One 2021 school survey of 3,124 Year 9-13 students from 21 schools in Hawkes Bay found that 9.8% of students vaped daily, and 15% of daily vapers were waking up during the night to vape.
HCA co-chair, Professor Boyd Swinburn said Aotearoa can no longer ignore the harms of vaping and this was made clear by huge support for a petition delivered to Parliament by Vape-Free Kids Aotearoa last week.
“When parents, principals and rangatahi are turning up on the steps of Parliament pleading for help, we can see how significant the problem is,” he said.
The Coalition is also calling for increased resources to monitor and enforce regulations regarding vaping to youth, and provision of appropriate support for tamariki and rangatahi who are now addicted to these products.
It says the response to vaping by the Government has not fully recognised Māori perspectives on the harms of addiction – among rangatahi and tamariki – and particularly as vaping prevalence among Māori and Pacific young people is significantly higher than NZ European youth.
“We must ensure that entrenching vaping among rangatahi of today and in future generations is not a legacy of the Smokefree Environments Amendment Bill,” HCA Smoke-free Expert Advisory Group chair, Leitu Tufuga said.