3 May 2023

'It's got to stop': Mayor concerned vape industry targeting kids, says regulation needed

6:33 pm on 3 May 2023
Woman smoking e-cigarette, vaping.

Photo: 123RF

New Zealand needs to take a leaf out of Australia's book and tighten up vaping regulations, New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom says.

Australia is limiting vape flavours, bringing in "pharmaceutical-style" packaging, reducing their nicotine content, and halving imports of non-prescription vapes.

At the same time Australia was announcing its crackdown, the New Plymouth District Council banned vaping from its parks and public outdoor spaces - inline with its Smokefree policy.

Holdom told the council he had heard about tutti fruity and pineapple flavoured vapes when one of his own children said they sounded good and wanted to try them.

He said the tobacco industry had pivoted and was targeting children.

"What we are concerned about is that appears the vape industry and the infrastructure they've got is targeting our kids with things like tutti fruity and pineapple express and dairies have stuck basically a cupboard and a door and they are selling vape to primary and intermediate school age kids."

Regulations similar to the alcohol sector might be required, he said.

"What's the fitness of these people to sell this product, make sure that the fines are appropriate to the risks and I mean realistically we've got to stamp out the sale of vaping to our kids.

"And we've heard that there are kids that are getting access to it from we don't know where and on-selling it to other kids. You know, they're targeting primary and intermediate school age kids and it's got to stop."

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom at the site of former Education Board building Te Atiawa is demolishing to make way for town houses. Holdom says it's exciting to see the iwi investing in NP.

New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom says he own children were attracted to the fruity flavours of vapes on offer. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

A 2021 ASH survey of Year 10 students in Taranaki found that more than 12 percent were vaping daily.

Nationally the figure was 10 percent.

Taranaki Smokefree educator Kate Dawson said a nicotine addiction could be very debilitating.

"Vaping is absolutely massively addictive and because of that it's causing things like anxiety, so people have got this massive need to have their vape in the middle of school in the middle of whatever they are doing and they can't even get through the night sleeping without needing to get up and have a vape."

She also wanted to see better regulation.

"This problem is with government being very very slow in bringing in stricter regulations or restrictions around where vape stores can pop up and how they pop up and then the enforcement of that down the track."

Dairy owners were just following the rules as they were, she said.

"When you see it's a little cupboard off the side of a dairy it's within the regulations, so the government has dropped the ball by not having strict enough regulations around that."

Taranaki Smokefree educator Kate Dawson

Vapes are very addictive, Taranaki Smokefree educator Kate Dawson says. Photo: Supplied

Limiting the places where people could vape would slow down its uptake and reinforce the message that being smoke and vape free was normal, she said.

New Plymouth Girls' High School principal Jacqui Brown said the current regulatory settings meant her students were surrounded by the temptation to vape.

"I don't think it helps that they can walk past vape shops, I don't think it helps that there are unscrupulous people who will sell vapes to those who aren't of age to buy them and I think the way that they are marketed is really targeted at young people rather than those who are trying to quit smoking."

She said a lot of students were oblivious to the downsides of vaping.

"Many of them aren't even aware of the levels of nicotine in the vapes that they are using. They choose the vape on its flavour and the things they'd like to try rather than the level of nicotine.

"So, I think we are seeing a lot of use by people who perhaps wouldn't considered those things had they not looked so appealing."

Brown welcomed the banning vaping in public spaces in New Plymouth.

"I don't think we can do too much to help young people make good choices and good decisions.

"One of the things that I think happens often is that these things become normalised and more people see vapes the more that they hear actually that everybody vapes - which we know is not true, but everybody for a teenager - or they might hear that it is not as harmful as smoking. All of those things contribute to that ongoing rise in vaping among young people."

The government has said it was consulting on regulatory measures to make vaping less attractive to young people, but needed to strike the right balance so that vaping is available to those quitting smoking.

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