Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the rules around vaping will aim to stop children from taking it up and will be finalised soon.

Her comments follow principals from high-decile schools saying that at least a third of their students are trying vaping, while health groups say that regulation is urgently needed.

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Ardern said Government regulation on vaping would be announced soon.

The goal was to ensure smokers can easily transition to vaping, which is reportedly 95 per cent less harmful than cigarette smoking, but not make it so accessible and appealing that non-smokers start vaping.


"I do not wish to see vaping become an entry point for young people into smoking," she told reporters today.

"The idea that it takes a foothold with young people in particular to take it up in and of itself I think would be deeply worrying."

The Government is looking to build the vaping regulation - including rules on advertising and flavours - into the existing framework for tobacco.

But evidence around vaping is still young, and one British Medical Association showed no gateway effect from vaping into smoking.

Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa said a year ago that legislation would be introduced this year to restrict the way vaping products were displayed in shops and possibly ban vaping in bars, restaurants and workplaces.

But the bill has still not appeared.

The Secondary Principals' Association and 36 individual principals of mainly high-decile schools have signed an open letter with health groups urging the Government to regulate the burgeoning industry.

Auckland Secondary School Principals' Association president Richard Dykes, of Glendowie College, said teenagers who had never smoked tobacco were being lured into vaping by advertising that was targeting young people.


"I would guess at least 30 to 40 per cent of our students have at the very least tried it. Some principals are reporting more than 50 per cent," he said.

"It tends to be the slightly higher-income communities. That probably reflects the price. The fear is that it will spread to other people as the cheap knock-offs come in from Asia."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Government regulation on vaping will be finalised soon. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Government regulation on vaping will be finalised soon. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Ministry of Health's 2018-19 NZ Health Survey, released this month, shows that 25 per cent of teens aged 15 to 17 have vaped with an electronic cigarette at least once, up from 19 per cent last year.

The number in the age group vaping at least once a month doubled from 1.7 per cent to 3.4 per cent and is now comparable to the numbers smoking tobacco cigarettes (3.8 per cent).

The open letter from principals and health groups says the delay in regulation "is not in the best interests of children or smokers who want to stop".

"Delays in tabling a bill for debate continues to leave the vaping market open for commercial exploitation, rather than setting clear parameters for how products are marketed, sold and used," the letter says.


The letter was organised by Action for Smokefree 2025 (ASH) and signed by the heads of the Medical Association, Cancer Society and other health groups and academics as well as principals.

ASH chair Professor Robert Beaglehole said the groups did not want to ban vaping, but wanted regulations to ensure that it was taken up by people wanting to quit tobacco smoking rather than by non-smokers.

"Vaping is the inhalation of nicotine dissolved in liquid, often with flavours. You get the nicotine but you don't get the deadly constituents of burned tobacco. It works. It helps people stop smoking, and it's much cheaper because cigarettes in New Zealand are so expensive.

"We desperately need legislation and then regulation to encourage people who smoke and want to stop to vape, but discourages non-smoking young people from vaping."