Vape-Free Kids NZ (VFK NZ) is deeply disappointed at the new coalition government’s smokefree policy changes and what this means for the growing youth vaping crisis.
VFK NZ spokesperson Tammy Downer says, “The government has chosen revenue over our rangatahi. New Zealand was lauded around the word for its groundbreaking smokefree legislation, designed to prevent young people from taking up cigarettes.
“Cigarette and vape use are closely linked. A number of longitudinal studies consistently show that vaping in non-smoking youth is associated with a greatly increased risk of subsequent cigarette use. We need a vapefree and smokefree future, and taking a huge step back when it comes to cigarettes is not the answer.”
National’s health manifesto stated that they would tackle the youth vaping epidemic using the framework set out in the smokefree legislation, which has just been thrown out.
“Parents are expressing their shock and dismay at the Government’s decision in the face of rising vaping rates. We’ve seen an explosion in the number of vape stores opening, with many still near schools, and it hasn’t slowed.
“Not only have the floodgates remained open, the flow is now likely to continue to exponentially grow, as more Kiwis, young and old, become addicted to nicotine. It’s fairly clear who wins in this equation: big tobacco.”
Health and education experts have been sounding the alarm for years about the negative impacts of widespread youth vaping across the motu.
Prior to the election, both National and Labour promised tougher action to tackle this issue, such as drastically reducing the number of outlets selling vapes, and boosting the resources of enforcement officers to penalise stores which sold to minors.
“We are particularly concerned by the reversal on the reduction of tobacco outlets as this was linked to the promise to reduce vape retailers. How effective can increased penalties be when there are over 7500 vape retailers to monitor and only a handful of enforcers in each region? If vaping is the only tool left to reduce smoking, as Shane Reti is promoting it, our youth will be the collateral damage.
“If the government caves this easily to the tobacco industry on cigarettes, how will they manage to stand up to them when it comes to vaping? Especially when it’s the same companies producing these nicotine-containing products designed to addict users.”
Vape-Free Kids NZ is calling on Kiwis to speak out against these changes, and show the new government that the country will not accept letting yet another generation of children grow up to be nicotine addicts, through either cigarettes or vapes.
“Everyday we continue to hear stories from our members about the fallout on families from youth vaping. After all the hard work we did bringing our petition to parliament earlier this year, we were just starting to get traction from political leaders to take meaningful action, so we’re not about to give up now,” Downer says.
“The time is now for them to hear loud and clear that we are not okay with our children’s health being sacrificed for the profits of tobacco companies. Around 20 percent of our high school students now regularly vape, which is far too many.”