Health Minister Ayesha Verrall says the Government is not currently looking at following Australia’s lead in banning all vaping products for recreational use, stating they need to remain “readily available” as regulations on tobacco ramp up.
Meanwhile, National Party leader Christopher Luxon says he would be open to “all things” including a ban, stating the current settings for vaping products in New Zealand are “wrong”.
It comes as the latest data here shows a higher proportion of year 10 students vape daily than adults.
While New Zealand’s number of daily smokers has dropped dramatically in recent years, the number of people vaping nicotine-based products and using e-cigarettes has been on the rise, primarily as a substitute for smoking tobacco products but increasingly for recreation and among youth.
The 2021/22 NZ Health Survey found 8.3 per cent of adults - those aged over 15 - were vaping/using e-cigarettes daily, up from 6.2 per cent the previous year and 0.9 per cent in 2015/16.
Meanwhile, 8 per cent of adults in 2021/22 smoked daily, down from 9.4 per cent the previous year and 16.4 per cent in 2011/12.
The ASH survey of year 10 students for 2022 found 10.1 per cent of the nearly 30,000 respondents vaped daily - up from 9.6 per cent in 2021 and more than tripling since 2019.
The number of year 10 students regularly vaping - including weekly and monthly - dropped in 2022 to 18.2 per cent from 20.2 per cent in 2021.
Meanwhile, the number of year 10 students regularly smoking cigarettes continues to decline from 4.2 per cent in 2021 to 3 per cent in 2022.
Since 2021, nicotine vapes can only be sold in Australia with a prescription - but a black market for the products is thriving, and non-nicotine vapes sold at convenience stores are often found to contain the highly addictive substance.
According to ABC, the Australian Government this week said it was going to increase regulations, ban the importation of non-prescription vapes and close down the sale of vapes in retail settings.
Vapes will only be sold in pharmacies and in “pharmaceutical-like” packaging, with certain flavours, colours and other ingredients banned, and the concentration and volume of nicotine reduced. All single-use disposable vapes will also be banned.
The Government will also make it easier for people to get a prescription for using vapes to help quit smoking.
Verrall said vaping was an important tool to support people to quit smoking, particularly for the newly smoke-free, but the balance needed to be right in making sure young people did not take it up.
“We haven’t got that balance right at the moment.”
Verrall said they had been consulting on a range of proposals including flavours, branding, disposable vapes and proximity of sales to schools.
Verrall said a recreational ban was not part of that consultation, while also stating doing so would require a change to legislation, for which there was not enough time left in the political year.
“Vaping does have an important role in supporting people to quit and New Zealand is about to take an extraordinary step in the world and making it very hard to access tobacco.
“So for that reason, it is important that adults who are seeking to quit have vapes readily available and it isn’t a barrier to them.”
Verrall said that compared to tobacco there was limited evidence of the long-term health impacts of vaping, but it was clearly very addictive.
“It is not good that young people are addicted and vaping does cause addiction.
“So that’s why we do want to move on, making them less attractive, less available, and also making sure that the law is enforced and there aren’t sales to young people.”
Luxon said he was open to “all things” including a ban.
“I really think we’ve got our vape settings wrong here in New Zealand, I would really like us to take a step back and really look at them closely.
“It’s impacting our young people. Originally, they were introduced so that it actually could help people come off smoking, but it’s actually created a whole class and a new sector of addiction for people.”