A leading Kiwi vaping advocate says a few dairy owners selling vapes to minors are letting the side down badly and should be prosecuted,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
Her comments follow New Zealand consumer television show, Fair Go, conducting a hidden camera investigation which showed three retailers selling to under 18-year-olds in Gisborne in one afternoon. However, just six vape stores nationwide have been issued with infringement notices in the past two years.
“I’m pleased Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall and Health New Zealand are promising more compliance checks and enforcement. No one wants kids vaping and so any rogue dairy owners need the book thrown at them and fast. No prosecutions have so far been made and that needs to change forthwith,” says Ms Loucas.
In June last year AVCA publicly called for greater enforcement. At the time it said “retailers have had long enough to know right from wrong. I respect the Government’s initial focus is on educating retailers about the new law, but it’s now time to move onto enforcement.”
AVCA says what is working well are dedicated standalone specialist vape stores. Where the problems seem to be occurring is when dairies partition off a part of their shop to a be ‘specialist vape store’ enabling them to sell a full range of flavours. AVCA says it’s a cynical move, which might be within the new vape laws, but needs greater attention.
“These supposed ‘vape stores’ at one end of dairies need greater oversight before they’re signed off and then greater enforcement. Overall, the regulations that came out of the 2020 vaping legislation are working well, but youth access remains a work in progress,” she says.
A recent ASH survey on youth vaping confirmed that only two percent of youth vapers illegally purchased the vapes themselves. The rest are getting it from their friends, siblings, or parents, says Ms Loucas.
“The two main issues are a lack of enforcement and parental responsibility. The issue is not the vapes themselves. As the Minister Verrall says: ‘We need to continue supporting people who smoke tobacco to successfully switch to less harmful products.’
“Vaping is why New Zealand’s overall smoking rate has never been lower and why the country is on track to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 – where five percent of fewer smoke. Good on the Government for its renewed smokefree focus, via its latest bill. However, let’s remember who the enemy is here – combustible tobacco.”
Now in Parliament, the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill significantly limits the number of retailers able to sell smoked tobacco products. It aims to prevent young people from taking up smoking by prohibiting the sale of smoked tobacco products to anyone born on or after 1 January 2009, and it aims to make smoked tobacco products less appealing and addictive.
AVCA is encouraging supporters of New Zealand’s Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) approach to make a submission to Parliament’s Health Select Committee on the bill by 24 August.
“MPs and officials need to keep their eyes on the prize and not let a few anti-vapers hijack this all important smokefree legislation. This is not the time to try to relitigate the country’s vaping laws which were well covered in 2020. This is all about crunching the cancer sticks which is long overdue,” says Nancy Loucas.