22 Aug 2023

Labour pledges to halve number of vape stores nationwide

7:13 am on 22 August 2023

The locations of vaping stores has already been the focus of new rules, but the number of stores could be substantially reduced, if Labour is reelected. Photo: Tom Taylor / RNZ

The Labour Party says it will limit the number of vape stores nationwide to 600 and introduce a licensing regime if re-elected, in a fresh bid to crack down on youth vaping.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins admitted that while the government had taken a number of steps to curb youth vaping, such as banning disposable vapes, and stopping new retailers from opening near schools, it was clear more needed to be done.

"Vapes are far too widely available, so tougher measures are now needed," he said.

Capping the number of vape stores at 600 would reduce the number by more than half.

All retailers, including dairies and petrol stations, would need to obtain a licence in order to sell vaping products.

"The licensing regime will both be able to reduce the number of outlets that sell vapes and also ensure there aren't clusters of vape stores targeting schools or low socio-economic communities," Hipkins said.

He also said the ongoing uptake of youths vaping suggested the current penalty regime was not acting as a strong enough deterrent to those supplying or selling vapes to children.

Labour would double the penalty for anyone who supplied vapes to underage children, from $5000 to $10,000, while the penalties for retailers would increase from $10,000 to $15,000.

It would also look at ways to make vaping products less visible from the store-front, similar to tobacco.

Such measures would require Labour to be re-elected, as they would likely require new legislation.

On Monday, the government announced further measures it could already take within the existing regulations, which come into effect on 21 September.

The levels of nicotine in single-use vapes will be limited to 20mg/ml. In reusable vaping products, the maximum nicotine salt concentration has been set at 28.5mg/ml.

Currently, disposable vapes can have concentrations as high as 50mg/ml.

"We have set the maximum nicotine levels to balance the need for sufficient nicotine to be an effective smoking cessation device, while limiting the risk of nicotine addiction, especially for young people, and particularly from cheap single-use vaping products," Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said.

The new limits on nicotine levels are planned to come into force at the same time as a ban on new vape stores setting up within 300m of schools and marae, a requirement that batteries in vapes must be removable, and a new rule limiting the names of vape flavours to generic names.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon earlier said he was open to looking at all options, including an outright ban of vapes, but was yet to articulate a specific position.

ACT leader David Seymour had also suggested a licensing regime - by restricting the sale of vapes to liquor stores.

"If it was up to me, I'd say you need a liquor licence to sell it. Then you've got a network of stores that are already far from schools, already have restrictions on checking ID, already have their age restrictions enforced," he said last week.

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