Availability of vapes a balancing act

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary celebrates her eldest son Marli Atu’s 21st birthday over the weekend....
Taieri MP Ingrid Leary celebrates her eldest son Marli Atu’s 21st birthday over the weekend. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
I had the joy of celebrating my first-born son’s 21st birthday over the weekend, along with members of our reconstituted extended Rotuman-Dutch-Samoan-Indian family — and with a diverse bunch of his old friends from school, his beatboxing music community and new friends from his last year in the army.

There were speeches, dancing and traditional kava. People responsibly enjoyed a drink and only two people smoked cigarettes — both of them adults over 30.

But about half of the young people vaped. It gave me pause for thought about the new vaping rules to come into effect later this year and how we are trying to strike a balance between supporting people to become smokefree, while aiming to reduce the number of young people taking up the dangerous habit.

After all, as one cancer specialist put it, those who vape are participating in a multi-decade health experiment.

We know that vaping is significantly less dangerous than smoking mainly due to the lower heat compared with the burning carcinogenic fumes that come from burned tobacco.

However, we still don’t know, long-term, what damage the heated vapour causes the fragile lining of the lungs.

I agree with Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall that too many young people are vaping, which is why we’re making a number of moves to stop that happening.

From August this year, all vaping devices sold in New Zealand will need to have removable or replaceable batteries.

This limits the sale of cheap disposable vapes that are popular among young people. It will almost certainly put an end to our young children finding old, disposable vapes in the community playgrounds and trying to "give those a go".

We also want vapes as far from the minds and reach of children and young people as possible, so any locations within 300 metres of schools and marae will be off-limits for new shops.

Also from August, vapes will also need child safety mechanisms, and potentially enticing names like "cotton candy" will be prohibited.

Only generic names which accurately describe the flavours can be used such as "berry", the minister confirmed.

We recognise we need to strike a balance between preventing young people from starting to vape, and having vapes available as a cessation tool for those who genuinely want to give up smoking.

These new regulations build on protections the Labour Government introduced in 2020.

Vaping has played an important role in the record reduction of New Zealanders smoking over the last few years.

New Zealand’s smoking rate is half the rate of what it was 10 years ago, with the number of people smoking falling by 56,000 in the past year. This means we have one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, at just over 8% of the adult population.

We’re creating a future where tobacco products are no longer addictive, appealing or as readily available to people of my son’s generation, and the same needs to apply to vaping.