New regulations from Government restricting the location of Specialist Vape Retailers (SVRs) are too little, too late say the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation. With 1315 SVRs currently listed on the Health Advisory Regulatory Platform, and 15 added in the past week, New Zealand is certainly not lacking in SVRs.
Foundation Chief Executive says the new rules, while preventing new SVRs from setting up within 300m of schools and marae, will do nothing to stop SVRs currently located in these zones, nor will they stop retailers from opening elsewhere.
“By not introducing a cap on the number of SVRs allowed in New Zealand, the Government is allowing even more of these stores into our community, despite strong opposition from locals. We already have too many SVRs in New Zealand, we do not need more,” she says.
Ms Harding challenges the Government’s assertion that the current number of SVRs is necessary to help smokers quit smoking. “That argument suggests that every vape retailer has been set up as a quit smoking service, which is simply not true. These are commercial operations making money off an addictive product. It’s as simple as that. If they were quit smoking services, then their staff would be trained in how to use vapes for smoking cessation and they would offer wraparound support, but that is not the case.”
The Foundation is also concerned that some operators are taking advantage of the current lead-up period before the regulations come into force in August 2023. Ms Harding points to the example of the new Shosha outlet, set to open in the Wellington suburb of Strathmore within 300m of a nearby school and close to several other schools and preschools.
“There is strong opposition from the community to this retailer setting up there, with genuine concerns about the impact on the hundreds of children passing through the area. However, the Vaping Regulatory Authority, which approves SVRs, does not take these community concerns into consideration when making its decisions,” she says. “And the new regulations from Government will not change that.”
The Foundation has been calling for greater regulation on vaping for years and is disappointed that the Government has not taken this opportunity to implement rules that will offer genuine protections to rangatahi. “The intent of the original legislation was to stop the normalisation of vaping, but the opposite has happened. It is now embedded in New Zealand’s youth culture. If the Government wants this to change, then far more decisive and bold action is needed, namely: a ban on new SVRs, capping nicotine content across all vape products at 20 mg/ml and providing funding to support our vape-addicted rangatahi to quit.
Note: The new Shosha planned for Strathmore is located outside a bus stop widely used by local students. It is also within 120m of Scots College, within 120m of Scots Junior School, within 300m of Scots College Boarding House, Strathmore Park Kindergarten and Strathmore Park Playgroup and in close proximity to Kahurangi School, Peninsula Early Learning, Miramar Childcare, St Anthony’s School, Seatoun School, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Nga Mokopuna and Seatoun Kindergarten.
Read the open letter from community leaders here.