The Ministry of Health is not striking the right balance between protecting young people from the harms of vaping and making vapes available for current smokers to use as a quit smoking tool says the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand.
The Foundation is concerned by recent comments from the Ministry of Health which reveal it has no plans to cap the number of specialist vape retailers or to reduce the nicotine levels allowed in vapes.
"We were very disappointed to read in a recent public statement from the Ministry of Health that there is no plan to halt the growing number of specialist vaping retailers. With 1063 of these retailers now around New Zealand, up from 666 in February this year, the rapid proliferation of vaping stores in our communities is obvious. We now have more specialist vaping retailers than community pharmacies throughout New Zealand, meaning these products continue to be widely accessible and visible to our young people," Asthma and Respiratory Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding says.
The other issue of concern to the Foundation is the Ministry’s statement that it had no plans to decrease the nicotine limit in vape products, despite New Zealand’s limit being significantly higher (50mg) than the EU (20mg). Ms Harding points out that this seems to contradict what Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said in an interview last month.
In the interview, with TV One’s Breakfast programme, the Minister said: ‘…when we reduce the nicotine in cigarettes, which is what the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Bill will do, then at that point it wouldn’t be right to keep the level of nicotine in vapes as high. So, there will be a point at which we will need to adjust that too ‘.
However, in its recent statement, the Ministry continued to argue that higher nicotine concentrations are needed for vapes to be a successful smoking cessation tool. The Foundation disputes this claim and points out that 50mg is a particularly high level of nicotine. For comparison, an average pack of cigarettes has between 22 to 36mg of nicotine.
"The maximum level does not need to be this high, and concerningly, as recent media reports have shown, the levels in some products could have been even higher due to confusion over labelling rules," Ms Harding points out.
Ms Harding says that while the Ministry’s recent youth education campaign about vaping harms is a welcome development, it needs to go hand in hand with reducing the availability and addictiveness of vapes to truly protect our rangatahi.
"The Ministry needs only to talk to parents, schools or young people around the country to realise that the current vaping regulations are inadequate and failing to protect young New Zealanders from harm," she says.
3 March, 2022
The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) welcomes the release of the ASH Year 10 Snapshot Survey, and the finding that daily smoking among Year 10 students now stands at just 1.3%, down from 2% two years ago.