While specialist vape retail stores have been forced into lock down, general retailers selling cigarettes remain open.
New Zealand’s costly vape bill which went into effect in August has limited the sale of vape flavours to speciality vape shops which have now been forced to close as part of the COVID-19 lockdown. This will lead many small to medium-sized businesses to bankruptcy and consumers back to smoking.

“We have long supported the formalisation of vaping as an R18 activity and mandatory product safety standards. However, a lot of the industry regulation now in effect or timetabled is just not workable. It will seriously hinder New Zealand’s smokefree efforts,” said AVCA co-director Nancy Loucas.

Ironically, general retailers selling cigarettes remain open. “We don’t want to see unrealistic regulatory demands costing livelihoods and lives. Subsequently, we’ve now joined the local industry, pushing for urgent changes and clarity,” she added.

In another recent release, Loucas highlighted that while the problem the vape bill aims to address – teen vaping, is unacceptable, the issue has already been well addressed. “Vaping by minors is completely unacceptable. However, let’s not forget that vaping products are strictly R18 following last year’s Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act.”

There is not teen vaping epidemic anyway

Moreover, recent data has put any fears about any possible rises in teen vaping rates at rest. “After examining a survey of over 27,000 secondary school students, University of Auckland researchers last year found that only 0.8% of 14 and 15-year-olds, who had never smoked, were regular vapers. Researchers subsequently confirmed there was no youth vaping epidemic in New Zealand,” said Loucas.

She went on to point out the importance of recognizing vaping’s possible key role in New Zealand achieving Smokefree Aotearoa goal. “Let’s not keep trashing the best thing we have to achieving smokefree. More than enough measures are in place to protect our rangitahi – or young people. We now just need all retailers to enforce the age restriction. The role of parents, whanau, and schools is also critical,” she concluded.

Limiting teen access to vapes should not come at this cost

A recent paper published in the American Journal of Public Health shares the same sentiment. Kenneth Warner, dean emeritus and the Avedis Donabedian Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, and 14 other past presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco co-authored an article that highlights how the potential benefits of vaping are being overshadowed by all the panic surrounding the potential risks of teen vaping.

“Because evidence indicates that e-cigarette use can increase the odds of quitting smoking, many scientists, including this essay’s authors, encourage the health community, media, and policymakers to more carefully weigh vaping’s potential to reduce adult smoking-attributable mortality,” reads the article.

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In-house journalist covering international vaping news.