Government measures to ‘crackdown’ on youth vaping do not go far enough say Health Coalition Aotearoa Smokefree Expert Advisory Group.

While the Government’s announcement to cease the sale of disposable vapes and increase penalties for non-compliant retailers is seen as a start to addressing youth vaping issues, members from the Health Coalition Aotearoa (HCA) Smokefree Expert Advisory Group say it is unlikely to have the intended impact and does not go far enough.

“While the coalition government is making a start on addressing youth vaping, the proposed ban on disposables is likely to have little impact,” University of Auckland Research Fellow and HCA Expert Advisory Group member Dr Lucy Hardie said. “Disposable vapes are popular among young people because they are cheap but also because they typically contain high levels of nicotine, are easy to use, and come in a range of appealing flavours and stylish colours.”

Dr Hardie also believes that vape companies will continue to adapt their products to fit within regulation changes as has been seen with the recent requirement to reduce nicotine levels.

“The previous government introduced regulations a matter of months ago, reducing the permitted nicotine levels in disposable vapes. In response, however a popular vape brand recently launched a new reusable vape product designed in a shape that aligns with youth-oriented single-use vapes and that includes the highest permitted nicotine levels, a range of colours and flavours and at a low price of just $9.99, making it affordable for young people,” she said.

HCA wants to see the Government significantly increase resources to enforce the monitoring of retailers to ensure their compliance with the new laws. “I applaud the introduction of higher fines for retailers who sell to minors, but only one prosecution of this sort has been made since the vape laws of 2020 came into force.  This change would only be meaningful with active enforcement and adequate resources to implement it,” said Dr Hardie. 

HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn is disappointed that the Government’s announcement does not address the election promise made by the National Party to place a 600-outlet cap across the country.  “These proposed changes do not see a reduction in the number of stores selling vapes which was an election promise by the National Party,” said Swinburn. “We need to have a number of changes made to the current legislation around vaping if we want to make a lasting impact.”

Professor Janet Hoek from Aspire Aotearoa and HCAs Smokefree Expert Advisory Group welcomes the move to cease the sale of disposable vapes, but believes the Government’s approach to helping people to quit smoking and vaping is inconsistent. “We certainly need measures to protect young people from vaping; however, we desperately need measures that will help people quit smoking. Sadly, the government has just repealed core measures in our smokefree law that would have denicotinised tobacco, making it non-addictive and much easier to quit, made tobacco less available, and created a smokefree generation,” she said.

“A logical approach would have seen measures that decreased smoking prevalence introduced as quickly as possible. The government could then have introduced much stronger vaping regulation, for example, by introducing a prescription model or a pharmacy only supply model.”

Health Coalition Aotearoa is committed to the reduction of harm and death from vaping and smoking and will continue the fight. “Whilst we welcome measures to reduce vaping with our youth, we believe far more can be done to address both smoking and vaping in Aotearoa,” said Professor Swinburn. “We will continue to fight for a Smokefree New Zealand, as this can be a reality for the current and future generations.”

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