Enforcement of vaping laws needs to 'ramp up' for youth - Verrall

Source: 1News

The Government needs to "ramp up" enforcement of the country's vaping laws when it comes to youth, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall says.

Her comments come after the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill had its first reading on Tuesday.

It seeks to reduce the number of retailers who can sell smoked tobacco products, reduce nicotine levels in such products and prohibit the sale of them to anyone born on or after January 1, 2009.

Under current vaping laws, vaping products can't be sold or supplied to those under the age of 18.

READ MORE: Enticing vaping advertising a concern - school principal

However, this hasn't stopped young people from vaping. Varying surveys and research have found students are increasingly taking it up.

October 2021 research by Youth19 found 10% of students vape regularly and 6% vape weekly.

A November 2021 survey by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation and the Secondary Principals' Association found one in five secondary school students are vaping daily.

Meanwhile, the 2021 ASH (Action for Smokefree 2025) Year 10 Survey found daily vaping rates had increased from 3.1% in 2019 to 9.6% in 2021.

Verrall admitted to Breakfast there is "too much youth vaping" and said enforcement of the current laws needs to "ramp up".

Asked if she would ban vaping, given she wants to ban the next generation from smoking, Verrall said the country needs a "balanced approach".

"I'm not happy with the balance we have at the moment. There is too much youth vaping and that has gone up recently, so we do need to do more," Verrall said.

"The smokefree bill does include the ability for us to improve our enforcement of the current laws."

Vaping (file photo).

Verrall said it is a helpful "quit tool" for those addicted to nicotine and this is the "place we want it to occupy".

Pressed if she would essentially tell smokers to switch to vaping, despite there being evidence of vaping-related lung injuries, Verrall said in a roundabout way, she would.

Verrall said harm from vaping was "nowhere on the scale of tobacco" and remarked vaping-related injuries mostly come when their content has been adulterated in some way. The safety of vapes are regulated in New Zealand, she added.

"Tobacco kills half the people who use it. If that is helpful for someone to quit and get off that one in two chance of dying from smoking tobacco, then it actually is a helpful way to get there" she said.

"I do not want young people to be starting vaping as a habit without needing it as a quit tool and that is a very important problem that we do need to address."

Apart from saying the amendment bill enables the Government to improve its enforcement of current vaping laws, Verrall did not expand on how enforcement will ramp up or how rising youth vaping will be addressed.

Earlier this year, an Auckland principal called for vaping to be made R21 and for it to be restricted from online purchase. He also wanted to see "kids flavours" gone.