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Rising underage use sparks new vape measures

PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

A remit by Local Government New Zealand [LGNZ] is calling for tougher laws around vaping as underage use continues to rise, but Wairarapa vendors say the measures could be counterproductive.

The remit requests the government to restrict the sale of vaping products to R18 specialist vape stores and develop proximity limits to prevent the clustering of vaping product retailers and protect young people.

The remit came as all three Wairarapa councils were reviewing their smoke-free policy.

One Masterton retailer who sells vapes in his store said although it was not a big part of his business, he did not understand the reasoning behind the changes.

“If the central government is trying to encourage vapes as a good alternative to smoking, and cigarettes are sold at all places vapes are sold, then if I don’t provide an alternative to cigarettes then what’s the point?

“You have to have vapes and smokes side by side. It just seems counterproductive.”

The retailer said it could lead to people simply buying cigarettes if vapes were less available.

The remit was proposed by Kaipara District Council, which was seeing high numbers of vape stores operating in their region.

According to Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith, there were 13 retailers along Dargaville’s main road where people could buy vapes, including three specialist stores within 150 metres of each other.

The situation was not as severe in Wairarapa.

On Queen St in Masterton, there were five retailers selling vaping products.

Masterton also had several specialist stores of which the two closest were 110m apart from each other, raising concerns of clustering.

Councils were not responsible for individual outlets. That was the role of the Vaping Regulatory Authority.

Masterton District Council supported the remit when it was raised at a council meeting last month.

LGNZ president Stuart Crosby said less access to vaping products would help curve underage use.

“Between 2018 and 2021, daily vaping rose from 2 per cent to nearly 10 per cent among 14 to 15-year-olds.

“We can’t afford this trend to continue.

“While we support the supply of vapes to people wanting to stop smoking, we don’t want to see young people who have never smoked in their life taking it up. That means we must stop vapes from being so readily available in our dairies, supermarkets and service stations.”

Crosby said that retailer location was a main concern of councils, saying that vaping products were increasingly too accessible.

“Councils play a major role in promoting the well-being of their communities. Concerns around youth vaping is one issue mayors and councillors hear about time and time again from worried parents.

“We welcome the recent changes that include restrictions around the sale of vapes and advertising and sponsorship … but vapes are still available in too many places in our communities.

“The amendments that came into effect over the past two years do not include measures that prevent retailers from being within a stone’s throw of each other, or from schools for that matter.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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