Striking a balance between public health and comprehensive vaping restrictions in New Zealand
In a significant move towards curbing the rising trend of youth vaping, the New Zealand government has announced a comprehensive set of regulations set to take effect on September 21. This package of measures, unveiled by Ayesha Verrall, includes a wide range of restrictions designed to protect the public health landscape as well as young people.
1. Protecting Proximity: A central pillar of the new regulations focuses on restricting the location of specialist vape shops. Specified vape shops will be forbidden within 300 meters of schools and marae, according to the government's announcement. In this bold step, children and young people will be protected from vaping establishments' pervasive influence. There will be no effect on existing diaries or supermarkets within this radius, although they will be limited to selling mint, menthol, and tobacco flavours.
2: Taming Nicotine: In recognition of nicotine addiction, the government limits nicotine concentrations in vaping products. The maximum nicotine concentration for single-use vapes will be reduced to 20mg/mL as announced by Health Minister Ayesha Verrall. For youth protection and cessation efficacy to be balanced, reusable vaping products containing nicotine in salt form will be limited to 28.5mg/mL. The Asthma Foundation recommended reducing the current level of 50mg/mL from the current level of 50mg/mL, which is equivalent to smoking 25 to 50 cigarettes.
3: Revamping Flavour Names: In light of the government's prohibition on using appealing flavor names like cotton candy and strawberry jelly donut, the allure of appealing flavor names will be extinguished. Only generic flavor names such as 'orange' or 'berry' will be allowed to eliminate marketing tactics that resonate with younger audiences. The move reinforces our commitment to preventing youth from vaping.
4. Empowering Child Safety: In a world of innovative vaping devices, child safety remains paramount. All vaping devices will now need removable batteries and improved child-safety mechanisms, to make them less accessible to curious young minds. By using this dual strategy, we ensure that the devices remain out of reach for children while allowing adults to responsibly use them.
5. Addressing Youth Vaping Trends: Alarming statistics fuel urgency. Recent studies have highlighted a concerning trend - 10 percent of Year 10 students, aged 13 to 14, vape every day, up from 9.6 percent in 2021 and more than triple since 2019. Moreover, the percentage of 15 to 17-year-old New Zealanders who vape daily has quadrupled in just three years, from 2 percent in 2018-2019 to around 8 percent in 2021-2022.
6. Expert Concerns: Healthcare professionals alarm about the burgeoning youth vaping crisis. Paediatrician Dr. Colette Muir, representing the Paediatric Society of New Zealand, expressed deep concern. It is clear that vaping causes significant harm to Aotearoa's tamariki and rangitahi. This is even though the health policy was intended to reduce smoking."
7. Public Sentiment: In a recent poll, more than two-thirds of New Zealanders supported a path similar to Australia's - making vapes only available on prescription. Public sentiment aligns with the government's proactive stance. Newshub Reid Research poll results showed that 68 percent of respondents favour a ban on recreational vaping, which is similar to this sentiment.
8. The Road Ahead: A commitment to continuous evaluation and adjustment of these regulations is reflected in the government's announcement. New Zealand hopes to strike a delicate balance between reducing youth vaping and providing effective smoking cessation tools. It will monitor the impact of these measures.
As these regulations become reality, New Zealand is venturing into uncharted territory. It is pioneering a comprehensive approach to curb youth vaping while still respecting adult smokers' needs. In this endeavor, the government's commitment to a healthier future remains steadfast. The effectiveness of these measures will be closely watched by a nation that aims to protect its youth and ensure a smoke-free generation.