Government’s new vape rules may prove ineffective for Northland youth users
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The proposed measures outline some important preliminary steps but do not go far enough because vaping products will remain easily accessible, highly visible and attractively packaged.
Loopholes within new rules to limit youth vaping remain a concern as they come into effect nationwide on September 21.
Banning disposable vapes (without removable batteries) is one of the several measures taken by the Government to discourage the purchase of cheap devices favoured by children.
University of Otago professor Janet Hoek, who is also a co-director for ASPIRE2025, a research group helping the Government achieve the tobacco-free Aotearoa goal in the next two years, felt such a regulation wouldn’t be as effective as the administration hoped.
“The vaping industry has already taken steps and developed disposable vapes with replaceable batteries. So once again we will be seeing a policy being effectively circumvented even before it has come into effect,” Hoek said.
Not long after the Government announced its intention in June, one of the leading vape companies Shosha started to advertise their new pod-based disposable vape (with removable batteries) with the taglines “the solution ... and staying ahead of the game”.
“The coincidence of the industry being so quick to respond days prior to policy implementation brings out the cynic within me,” she said.
Representing the voice of the youth, 20-year-old Brett Gilmour said the Government was overlooking another key problem.
“I know a lot of underage people/friends who get their vapes from their friends who are of age since that’s the easiest way to get around the legal age aspect.
“Most shopkeepers don’t care who they later give it to and even if some did how are they or even the Government going to monitor them?”
He said buzz words such as “cotton candy” and “strawberry jelly doughnut” used to describe vape flavours played a significant role in a teen’s decision to buy and described them as a “little misleading” and a “business strategy”.
Hoek said that while she welcomed the new rules prohibiting the use of such flavour descriptions, the new measures do not address the brightly coloured packaging that featured cartoon characters to attract children’s interest.
She was sceptical of the new retail outlet regulation which would not see any specialist vape retailers (SVRs) operate within 300m of schools or marae.
Since the measure was pertinent to future applications and not existing SVRs and did not apply to generic retailers (e.g., dairies) many of which already fell within the parameters.
“The Government is not doing much to solve the existing problem and has already given enough time for the vaping industry to adapt.”
“Overall, such measures were unlikely to reduce young people’s access or exposure to vaping products.”
Hoek felt that such regulations would not have any or little impact on vape retailers.
Her last sentiment was echoed by Whangārei vape outlet Shosha manager, Ripen Singh, who said the new policies wouldn’t have a “significant impact” on their business.
“We welcome such policies which limit youth vaping and already take strict measures to not serve customers below the legal age and will continue to do so.”
Responding to the Advocate, Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said the Government did not think Shosha’s new products undermined the new policies since such “safer devices” were already available in Aotearoa prior to their announcement and were more expensive than some of the disposable vapes currently in the market.
On retail outlet measures, she agreed with Hoek’s assessment but added that approvals for SVRs couldn’t be transferred from one business to another.
Verrall said in future the Labour Party would also look to cap the total number of vape stores to 600. Presently there are over 1200 outlets nationwide.
The Minister said the time taken by the Government to implement the regulations was expected to be published this month and it was the standard practice for rules to come into force after a period of 28 days.
To check out the rules visit beehive.govt.nz/release/new-youth-vaping-regulations-set-out
Avneesh Vincent is the crime and emergency services reporter at the Advocate. He was previously at the Gisborne Herald as the arts and environment reporter and is passionate about covering stories that can make a difference. He joined NZME in July 2023.
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