The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation is urging the government to cap the number of specialist vape retailers (SVRs) in New Zealand.
Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall has introduced regulations that ensure, from August 2023, new vape shops are not opened within 300 metres of a school or marae.
However, foundation chief executive Letitia Harding said they would do nothing to stop the SVRs already in these zones, nor stop retailers from opening elsewhere.
"By not introducing a cap on the number of SVRs allowed in New Zealand, the government is allowing even more of these stores into our community, despite strong opposition from locals. We already have too many SVRs in New Zealand, we do not need more," she said.
"We should be looking at closing down some of these operations."
Harding was concerned some operators were trying to open before the August deadline.
A new Shosha outlet is set to open in the Wellington suburb of Strathmore within 300 metres of a nearby school and close to several other schools and preschools.
"There is strong opposition from the community to this retailer setting up there. However, the Vaping Regulatory Authority, which approves SVRs, does not take these community concerns into consideration when making its decisions," she said.
Shosha spokesperson Nabhik Gupta said the lease for the store was signed prior to the announcement of regulations and only allows customers aged 18 and above.
"Individuals wearing school uniforms are not permitted to enter the store. We do not recommend vaping to individuals who do not smoke," Gupta said.
Harding challenged the government's assertion that the 1315 SVRs listed on the Health Advisory Regulatory Platform were necessary to help smokers quit smoking.
"That argument suggests that every vape retailer has been set up as a quit smoking service, which is simply not true.
"If that's what they're actually being heralded for then why aren't there people in these vape stores who are trained in that?"
Te Whatu Ora said those choosing to quit vaping could discuss reducing their nicotine levels with a specialist vape retailer, or existing cessation services although those services said their funding was only for people who were quitting tobacco.
Harding said it was "outrageous".
"I couldn't believe they said that about going into a vape store for smoking cessation. We've actually had Te Whatu Ora reaching out to us asking for help, which is ironic because of course we get no funding for the work that we do either.
"Nicotine is highly addictive. It's in the top five most addictive substances in the world and just going into a vape store and purchasing a product like this doesn't actually help people quit."