Labour Sells Its Vaping Crackdown – But Is It Too Late?

Labour Sells Its Vaping Crackdown – But Is It Too Late?
Labour Sells Its Vaping Crackdown – But Is It Too Late?

Picture: RNZ

“This was a sluggish government response,” – Well being Coalition Aotearoa co-chair Boyd Swinburn

The federal government’s pointed to vapes as a key weapon within the battle towards cigarettes. 

Within the rush to succeed in its smokefree targets, nonetheless, there are fears the horse has bolted – with kids uncovered to an entire new habit. 

Vapes had been in an unregulated wild-west market till 2020, when the federal government set a minimal age of 18, banned promoting, and restricted flavours to tobacco, menthol and mint – except bought by specialist retailers. These retailers have since continued to unfold, many inside attain of their most susceptible clients: kids.

Vaping in beneath-18s tripled between 2019 and 2021.

Training Minister Jan Tinetti told RNZ’s education correspondent John Gerritsen vaping was being raised along with her continuously: “I have principals that tell me this is just about their number one issue – particularly in secondary,” she says. “I think out of the four schools that I went into last week, every single one of them brought vaping up to me.”

Well being Coalition Aotearoa co-chair Boyd Swinburn says the government’s been slow to respond.

“There’s a few years that we didn’t have any regulations on the books and the vape shops have sprouted up like mushrooms – and dairies cut themselves in half to be able to sell vapes because they’ve got such a high profit margin that it makes them a bit irresistible really. So now we’re having to deal with reversing that trend, which is much harder than having to prevent it in the first place.” 

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has lengthy talked about placing a stability between discouraging kids from taking over the behavior whereas encouraging it as a device to assist people who smoke stop. 

The smokefree aim has been championed by Well being Minister Ayesha Verrall, whose world-first laws prohibiting anyone born after 2008 from ever being able to buy tobacco got here into power in January.

Well being Minister Ayesha Verrall Picture: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Mixed with ever-rising excise taxes and reductions in nicotine ranges and retailer numbers, people who smoke have by no means had extra causes to stop.

We’ve got a long time of information on the harmfulness of tobacco, and thus far the science says vapes – whereas addictive -are nowhere near as harmful. But much less hurt does not mean no harm – and there are concern in regards to the unknowns of this comparatively new phenomenon, with related charges being seen in different international locations. 

Australia’s full ban on recreational vaping – limiting merchandise to prescription-solely – has led to a rising black market, and Dr Verrall in June mentioned it might be a step too far for a rustic phasing out tobacco. As a substitute, she’s introduced new vape shops could be barred from inside 300m of faculties and marae. Disposable vapes – an environmental catastrophe – would even be banned, and whereas fruity flavours would stay out there, their names would change into extra generic to keep away from concentrating on younger individuals. 

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Hipkins on Monday admitted the federal government had not all the time acquired the stability proper, and introduced additional curbs on vape retailers together with chopping nicotine concentrations in some instances by greater than half, and an earlier enforcement date for the disposables ban and proximity limits.

Then, on Tuesday, a mere 12 hours later, Labour introduced its election policy would go still further: licences for vape retailers, with nationwide cap of 600 shops. 

Verrall mentioned the distinction in strategy was about timing. The preliminary adjustments had been a fast tinkering with present laws; the election coverage would want new laws, that means public session and contending with lobbyists. 

Labour’s social media pages made no distinction between the 2: Verrall mentioned it was fairly regular “to set out what you’ve done and what you’d continue to do”, on an space of such “complex change” – although the Cupboard Handbook is evident authorities selections showing in get together political materials must be labelled as such. 

The insurance policies, predictably, have the vaping industry warning towards overreach; and smoking cessation campaigners fearing it’ll imply much less entry for individuals who want the merchandise to stop. However, Vape-Free Kids – which calls itself a grassroots group of involved dad and mom, whānau, lecturers, and neighborhood members – says Labour’s proposal does not go far sufficient.

Political events agree one thing must be carried out. 

Nationwide is supportive of the approaching regulatory adjustments, however – with vaping abruptly a marketing campaign subject – says it’ll have extra to say on coverage at a later date. 

ACT’s David Seymour has lengthy criticised the federal government’s vaping insurance policies. He hasn’t but introduced one among his personal, however recommended gross sales might be restricted to liquor shops, which already want a licence and to examine clients’ ages. It was an concept that appealed to Verrall, who mentioned it was “a really interesting proposition” the federal government “could consider more”. 

Labour’s marketing campaign promise to stamp out youth vaping will attraction to the dad and mom it is recognized as a key demographic this election – however the very last thing they’re going to need is to drive individuals again to tobacco. 

On this week’s Give attention to Politics, Political Reporter Giles Dexter explores the conflicting priorities that meant Labour’s vaping laws could have come too late. 

Hear free to Focus on Politics on Apple Podcasts, on  Spotify, on iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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