Young people becoming addicted to nicotine every day vaping market remains 'unregulated', Auckland principal warns

Kate Nicol-Williams
Source: 1News

The goalposts are shifting on vaping regulation with the Government today saying legislation will be introduced this parliamentary term, which could be nearly a year away, at odds with previous indications the introduction would be late this year.

"I share the public's frustration, but it is important that we get this legislation right so that we can have a future-proof framework ready to present to Parliament," Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa said in a statement.

"Seeing this legislation introduced is a priority for me. I have been working towards introducing a bill this parliamentary term and that remains my goal," she said.

But in a statement to 1 NEWS in May, Mrs Salesa said she expected the bill to be introduced in August.

Then in September, a statement said that legislation was due to be introduced in the next few weeks.

Mrs Salesa said as final decisions on the legislation had not been taken to Cabinet ministers yet, she could not comment on what part of the Bill is causing the delay.

“It’s unacceptable… for every day that we leave that regulation, the market unregulated, is another day that we’ve got more young people being addicted to nicotine and we just can’t have that,” Auckland Secondary Schools Principals’ Association president Richard Dykes said.

He estimated around a third of students at his school, Glendowie College, are vaping and said he’s talking to principals around the country who are questioning how to stop their students being addicted to nicotine from taking up vaping.

“Principals say it feels like 20 years ago when students were picking up smoking and now we’re getting the same thing going through with adolescents – they perceive it as completely safe and it’s not,” he said.

His school is one of 60 organisations including health, academic and community groups who yesterday penned an open letter to the Associate Health Minister, calling on Jenny Salesa to put regulation in place as soon as possible to reduce harm to the public.

"Market forces are now defining the vaping environment in New Zealand, as opposed to this environment being defined by the need to protect health," the letter stated.

Hāpai Te Hauora general manager Mihi Blair said apart from children, smokers are also being harmed by the delay in regulation.

“The current impact is that the marketing of the vaping products, especially by tobacco companies who have the main market in New Zealand, has become the wild west,” she said.

Ms Blair said the lack of restrictions on marketing isn’t helping smokers trying to quit as the promotion isn’t always focused on vaping being a less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

“What we’re seeing in the communities is there’s been resistance or reluctance to utilise this as a quitting tool.”

ASH Action for Smokefree 2025 director Deborah Hart said it’s problematic how long it is taking to introduce regulation.

“To wait and keep trying to fine tune this legislation is really quite unnecessary in our view,” she said.

“The longer it goes on, the more problematic it is because we’re going to be in a different situation when the legislation finally gets passed to where we are now. We’re already seeing young people being targeted for vaping when really it should on be used as a quit smoking measure,” she said.

“It’s just very difficult to tell from our perspective what’s holding it up.”

“All we’d say to her is, ‘Look, we understand why you want it to be really fantastic when it comes to Parliament but it just has to be fantastic when it comes out the other end as a piece of legislation.”

Ms Hart said ironing out the regulations can be done through the select committee process with submissions from organisations like ASH.