Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand has been calling for tougher regulations to tackle our youth vaping epidemic since 2018. Letitia Harding, Chief Executive says, "it is great to hear that Labour recognises this is a major problem in Aotearoa and that they are willing to tackle it seriously"
The Foundation ran the largest youth vaping-focused survey in 2021, which found around 20% of secondary school students were regularly vaping, a finding consistent with other large surveys here in New Zealand, and overseas.
From that survey, a number of recommendations were made by the Foundation including; limiting the content of nicotine available in vaping products sold in New Zealand to a maximum of 20mg (2%), banning front-of-store window advertising and product displays by retailers, and preventing the sale of vaping products within a one-kilometre radius of any school by retailers.
Following the explosion of Specialist Vape Retailers (SVRs), now numbering over 1300 stores around the country, the Foundation has more recently been calling for a cap on the number of SVRs. "We are delighted to hear that Labour will now look to cap the number of SVRs to 600 stores in line with the number of tobacco outlets", says Ms Harding.
Sharon Pihema, the Foundation’s Māori Community Liaison, runs workshops with secondary schools around the country and says, "school students themselves say how easy it is for under 18-year-olds to purchase and access vapes", adding "these kids say it is simply the ease of accessibility and normalisation of vaping within their social circles that is the biggest problem, and if we can reduce this it will make a real difference".
The Foundation supports the suggested changes to current vape regulations by Labour which would cap the number of vape stores nationally to 600, call for harsher legal penalties for retailers who sell to youth, and make vape products less visible from the storefront.
Ms Harding says ,"we look forward to all parties taking the youth vaping epidemic seriously, and hearing what their proposed regulations will be."