The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand is welcoming recent proposals from Government to further restrict vaping, but says action is urgently required in communities with the greatest need.

"The proposals set out by the Ministry of Health in its consultation document are a great start, and we welcome this focus on greater protection for our rangatahi from the harms of vaping. However, regulations must go hand in hand with practical, on-the-ground education and support for young people and their whānau - which is still very much lacking," says Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding.

"We have known about this need for some time, but it was brought into sharp focus after the Foundation appointed our first Āpiha Takawaenga Māori (Maori Community Liaison) in the Tairāwhiti region last May," Ms Harding explains.

The purpose of this role was to work with whānau, hapū and iwi groups, kura and schools, iwi health providers and community organisations to improve respiratory health outcomes for Māori. "The overwhelming need expressed by the community was vaping harm education. This finding is backed by recent figures from the ASH New Zealand Survey which found that 34% of Māori teens aged 14 and 15-year vape regularly," she says. "The statistics are even higher for Māori girls of this age, with 40% vaping regularly."

During the six-month pilot programme, the liaison worker Sharon Pihema, developed a youth education programme centred around kaupapa Māori methodology and delivered it to rangatahi across the region. She also built valuable networks with other health providers working in vape harm prevention and provided training to others in this field.

The Foundation is hoping to roll out this pilot programme, placing four Āpiha Takawaenga Māori in areas with identified high respiratory needs: Te Tai Tokerau, Tāmaki Makaurau, Waikato and Ōtautahi. "We have seen the success of this approach in reaching rangatahi, and believe that hand in hand with greater regulation, we can change the current dire situation of youth vaping in New Zealand," Ms Harding says.

"New Zealand needs to acknowledge that vaping is not being used primarily to stop smoking. It has become a mainstream recreational activity, which is normalised amongst young people. Unfortunately, this is no surprise as the Ministry of Health’s Vaping Regulatory Authority has stated it views vaping products as primarily recreational and smoking cessation as secondary," she says. "We need to be using every tool available to address this issue."


Note: In a letter to the Medical Classification Committee in February 2022. Vaping Regulatory Authority spokesperson Andrea Eng wrote: ‘Our position on vaping products is that their purpose is principally recreational rather than therapeutic, and that their use as a cessation aid for smokers is secondary." This can be viewed here:>


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