Fewer than 100 infringement notices have been issued to vape retailers since enforcement started final yr.
Ministry of Well being figures equipped underneath the Official Data Act present fines totalling $42,900 since June 2022.
There have been 96 infringement notices, the bulk for promoting to individuals underneath the age of 18.
Ministry of Well being public well being coverage and regulation performing group supervisor Alison Cossar mentioned fines for promoting to underaged consumers may vary from $200 to $1000.
Cossar mentioned enforcement was nonetheless ramping up.
Officers empowered to implement vaping laws had been anticipated to double in “coming months”.
There have been presently 29 enforcement officers working throughout the motu with one other 32 being skilled or recruited.
Cossar blamed the delayed begin of vaping enforcement on the Covid pandemic.
“There were disruptions to this work due to the role regional public health services had during the Covid-19 response,” she mentioned.
Greater than 1300 specialist vape retailers had been listed on Te Whatu Ora’s Well being advisory and regulatory platform and 1000’s extra dairies, service stations and grocery retailers promote a restricted vary of vape merchandise.
Christchurch mum and Vape Free Youngsters member Anna Stewart mentioned the enforcement figures had been a shock however not stunning.
“The horse has already long bolted. Regulations, or enforcement of them, at the very minimum is the only thing that can curb the number of the young people that are picking this up, but we’re not doing it. They have seemingly more resources dedicated for providing vape stores than they do for monitoring compliance of them,” Stewart mentioned.
She shared with RNZ screenshots of on-line feedback from a neighborhood dairy saying they’d proceed to promote vapes to underaged clients regardless of being caught out thrice and fined.
Stewart mentioned she despatched her teenage son to the shop to see if they’d promote to him and was shocked when he emerged moments later with the restricted product.
“I went straight back into the store and said ‘what does the sign mean if you don’t enforce it?’ and they just looked at me and said nothing. There were three other young men in the queue behind me who were clearly coming in to buy their vapes,” Stewart mentioned.
A snapshot survey completed final yr by ASH confirmed practically 20 per cent of yr 10 college students admitted to vaping recurrently.
“These stores are continuing to sell to young children so what does that say about the value that we place on the health of our young people?” Stewart mentioned.
Authorities responds with penalties
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins mentioned if elected, a Labour authorities would scale back the variety of vape retailers to 600 or much less, placing a whole bunch of speciality vape shops out of enterprise.
Hipkins mentioned they’d enhance fines, and make all retailers promoting vapes apply for a licence.
“We have already made it illegal to sell vapes to anyone under 18. But the ongoing uptake suggests the current penalties are not a strong enough deterrent. A Labour government will increase penalties to adults who supply vape products to underaged children by 100 per cent, from up to $5000, to up to $10,000. We will also increase penalties for retailers found to be selling vaping products to underage children from up to $10,000, to up to $15,000,” Hipkin’s mentioned.
Vape-Free Youngsters organiser Tammy Downer mentioned the transfer nonetheless left in extra of 6000 shops promoting the merchandise.
“They talked today about how they brought in the under 18 ban but there’s been no enforcement of that ban. You’ve got a handful of enforcers working for the vape authority and they’re just not stopping people. We’ve got so many parents that are everyday sharing examples of stores that are selling to their kids and there’s just no threat, there’s nothing that’s stopping them,” Downer mentioned.
Downer mentioned Labour additionally appear confused as to what the precise worth of fines presently being levelled at retailers breaking the legislation had been.
She mentioned the one devoted vaping enforcement officer within the Canterbury area had solely signed off 9 infringement notices up to now yr.
“And that’s not the $10,000 fine that they’re talking about, that’s the $500 fine. The $10,000 [fine] doesn’t start to apply until they’ve had four strikes and that involves prosecution so that takes a massive amount of time before they get to that point,” she mentioned.
Vaping Business Affiliation head Jonathan Devery was additionally sceptical of Labour’s plans.
He mentioned the affiliation was happy the federal government had lastly taken motion to bolster penalties for retailers who promote to youth.
“We have expressed concern over the continued lack of enforcement by authorities who appear to have ‘bulk issued’ licences and are allowing the ‘store-within-a-store’ model to proliferate. Rather than enforcing the regulations, the government has continued to issue licences to retailers that do not meet the requirements of the regulations, and rather than take responsibility for its failure to take action, it is trying to use the industry as a political football to score points,” Devery mentioned.
Devery mentioned specialist vape retailers had been one of the best place for individuals to get info on how you can stop tobacco merchandise efficiently and clamping down on the variety of specialist vape retailers would derail these attempting to stop smoking and power underage vapers even additional underground.
“Reducing accessibility to vaping will simply drive smokers to black market cigarettes which will no doubt become readily available from criminal organisations as these new restrictions are rolled out. And as we can see from our neighbours in Australia, an illicit market has resulted in even higher levels of youth vaping than we have in Aotearoa,” he mentioned.