Principals back plan to cut vape flavours

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa plans to introduce a Bill on vape regulation to Parliament...
Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa plans to introduce a Bill on vape regulation to Parliament in a few weeks, which will limit vape flavours to tobacco, menthol and mint. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Concern about a new generation of people becoming addicted to nicotine has prompted Otago secondary school principals to back the Government's plan to ban most vape flavours.

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa plans to introduce a Bill on vape regulation to Parliament in a few weeks, which will limit vape flavours to tobacco, menthol and mint.

Otago Secondary Principals' Association chairwoman and Bayfield High School principal Judith Forbes confirmed vaping was an issue in Otago's secondary schools, though the problem was not as serious as it had become in schools further north.

It had been reported the number of pupils vaping was "exploding" in some Auckland schools.

Auckland Secondary Principals' Association president Richard Dykes said many pupils mistakenly believed vapes contained only water and flavouring, and his school had teenagers who vaped and were addicted to nicotine.

Mrs Forbes said the association had received information from the Cancer Society of New Zealand that showed health expert opinions were divided about the potential harm from vaping.

"It's a concern that, in the absence of a solid research base, we may inadvertently expose New Zealanders to health risks," she said.

"So, in our school, we have always treated vaping the same as smoking, and we have provided parents and students with information if it has occurred."

While she believed vaping had a role to play in weaning smokers off cigarettes, there was "absolutely no justification" for young non-smokers to start vaping.

She said her school had had very few incidents of pupils vaping, and believed it was the same for most schools around Otago.

However, Hoopers Vapour Dunedin branch manager Blair Bowler was opposed to restricting vape flavours.

He believed it could discourage smokers from giving up cigarettes.

"I can see that vaping is appealing to younger generations, but to bring it down to three flavours is not a good idea," Mr Bowler said.

"The idea of having different flavours is you're more likely to commit to it if it's something you enjoy.

"If you eat the same food all the time, you get sick of it, and it's kind of the same with vaping."

He questioned what would happen when people got sick of the three flavours.

"Will they quit, or will they just go back to smoking?"

He believed it would be the latter, and banning the flavours would likely cause more harm in the long term.

"Vaping is definitely the lesser of the two evils."

Ben Youdan, of anti-smoking group ASH, agreed the ban would not have the desired effect.

He did not believe large numbers of young people were being attracted to vaping.

He said surveys showed some year 10 pupils had tried vaping, but very few were regular users.

"We know that probably around about a third have tried even just a single puff of an e-cigarette or a vape device.

"Still, less than around 3% are daily or weekly or regular vapers, and of those who are, almost all of them are, or were, smokers."

- Additional reporting RNZ

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