A group of passionate mums dedicated to helping families torn apart by the youth vaping epidemic has been recognised for their efforts.

Vape-Free Kids NZ has been awarded the inaugural Youth Anti-Vaping Champion award at the 2024 Respiratory Achievers’ Awards on Thursday evening.

Co-founder Marnie Wilton says they are honoured to receive this award.

“It acknowledges the time and effort we, as volunteers, have put, while also recognising the contributions our members have made, including those who have bravely spoken about the impacts youth vaping has on their families.

“This award also coincides with our first anniversary and we feel proud that in that short time, we, as parents, have raised considerable awareness of the issue.”

Vape-Free Kids was founded in May 2023 by Ms Wilton, who noticed the rapid rise in the number of vape shops and was starting to hear of the issues schools were having with students vaping.

“I found this shocking and knew I had to do something,” Ms Wilton says.

“So, I connected with co-founder Charlie Christie online, who had launched a petition calling for tighter rules on vape retailers and we started the Vape-Free Kids NZ Facebook group.

They then connected with three other mums - Charyl Robinson, Tammy Downer and Anna Stewart - who also felt compelled to take time out of their busy lives, and they formed a working group to help tackle the growing problem, she says.

Their Facebook group now has 2300 members.

“Many of our members have shared heart-breaking stories of how their family has been torn apart by youth vaping addiction, or kids who’ve given up a bright future in sport.

“This is all because vape companies have been allowed to systematically target young people with their brightly coloured, appealingly flavoured nicotine products.”

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