“Kiwis need to have their say on the Government’s proposed measures aimed at youth vaping, with submissions closing on 15 March,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates).
Her comments follow Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall launching a consultation document titled ‘Proposals for the Smoked Tobacco Regulatory Regime’.
As well as crunching combustible tobacco, proposals include tightening current restrictions on vaping product safety requirements and packaging. It also considers some restrictions on the location of Specialist Vape Retailers (SVRs) as well as reducing nicotine levels in disposable vapes.
“The Minister has made clear she does not want to restrict access or availability to vaping products for people who wish to stop smoking and switch to less harmful products. However, our concern is that some of these measures will do exactly that which could hinder Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” says Ms Loucas.
CAPHRA says some of the commentary around these proposals perpetuates the myth that youth vaping is not only epidemic but is skyrocketing. CAPHRA says evidence, however, shows youth vaping here and overseas is well under control.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the youth vaping rate in the United States has been in steady decline since 2020. In fact, youth vaping in the US has plummeted by 60% over the past two years. In New Zealand, data continues to show that very few non-smoking teenagers take up vaping. Further, vaping is not an on-ramp to smoking, but an off-ramp,” she says.
Overall, CAPHRA supports the latest smokefree legislation which decreases the number of retail outlets able to sell tobacco, reduces the appeal of cigarettes, and ensures the next generation are never sold tobacco.
“Let’s keep our eyes on the prize. Combustible cigarettes are the real scourge and remain responsible for 5,000 premature deaths in New Zealand every year. In contrast, safer nicotine products have seen New Zealand’s smoking rate halve in the past decade.
“On vaping, the Government’s priority should be ensuring greater compliance of the rules via the Vaping Regulatory Authority. We need more resources directed towards enforcement to stop the likes of rogue retailers selling vape products to minors. We also need to see greater parental responsibility,” she says.
CAPHRA says vaping in New Zealand is already heavily regulated. Products are strictly sanctioned R18, all advertising is banned, and packaging and displays are restricted.
“I appreciate that these additional proposals are well intentioned. We just need to make sure they’re not counterproductive for the many desperate Kiwi smokers who want to quit tobacco but need a viable and accessible alternative to do so,” says Nancy Loucas.
To have your say on the latest vaping and smoking proposals before submissions close at 5.00pm on 15 March 2023, visit https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/proposals-smoked-tobacco-regulatory-regime