Labour wants to halve the number of vape stores around the country, restrict where they can be, and massively increase the penalties for selling or supplying them to under-18s.
The party released its vaping policy a day after announcing the commencement date - from September 21 - for a series of new restrictions including weaker nicotine concentration in vaping products, a 300m proximity ban on new specialist vape shops being close to schools or marae, and a requirement for all flavours to have generic names.
The proximity ban does not apply to diaries or supermarkets that might already be within 300m of a school or marae, but a new proposal for a licensing regime would enable a new mechanism controlling what stores can sell vaping products.
It follows a recent study that found 10 per cent of students in Year 10, who are aged 13 to 14, were vaping daily, up from 9.6 per cent in 2021 and more than tripling since 2019.
Another study found the number of New Zealanders aged 15 to 17 who vaped every day quadrupled in three years, from about 2 per cent in 2018-2019 to about 8 per cent in 2021-2022.
And in January last year, the Herald reported Ministry of Health data that detailed how at least one in four New Zealand schools - 894 - were within 1km of a vape store, and at least 77 were within 250m.
Today Labour leader Chris Hipkins laid out the party’s further plans to tackle the youth vaping problem, including a cap of 600 vape stores nationally, more than halving the current number.
A requirement for all retailers - including dairies and petrol stations - to hold a licence to sell vaping products would mean more control over where vaping products could be sold.
And the penalties for adults supplying children with vapes would double from $5000 to $10,000, while the fine for a shop selling to an underage person would rise from $10,000 to $15,000. Labour says it would “re-prioritise baseline funding of up to $2 million extra per year” to support enforcement and compliance.
“Those who produce and sell vapes are clearly targeting our kids, especially in low socio-economic areas,” Hipkins said.
“The licensing regime will both be able to reduce the number of outlets that sell vapes and also ensure there aren’t clusters of vape stores targeting schools or low socio-economic communities.
“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.”
Labour’s health spokeswoman, Ayesha Verrall, said the number of young people vaping daily more than tripled between 2019 and 2021.
“We have seen the explosion of vape retailers in recent years. A licensing regime will stop any new stores opening and will allow us to spread the number of stores across the country.”
Labour would also look at making vape products less visible from the storefront.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon has said, if elected, he would look at following Australia’s ban on non-prescription vaping.
Derek Cheng is a senior journalist who started at the Herald in 2004. He has worked several stints in the press gallery and is a former deputy political editor.