A New Zealand vape industry advocate says retailers selling to underage youth are destroying the industry and must be prosecuted.
Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA), made the comments following the airing of a consumer television show, Fair Go, conducting a hidden camera investigation which showed three retailers selling to under 18-year-olds in Gisborne, a city in the country’s North Island, in one afternoon.
Just six vape stores nationwide have been issued with infringement notices in the past two years, according to the AVCA.
“I’m pleased Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall and Health New Zealand are promising more compliance checks and enforcement,” said Loucas. “No one wants kids vaping and so any rogue dairy owners need the book thrown at them and fast. No prosecutions have so far been made and that needs to change forthwith.”
In June last year AVCA publicly called for greater enforcement. At the time it stated that “retailers have had long enough to know right from wrong. I respect the Government’s initial focus is on educating retailers about the new law, but it’s now time to move onto enforcement.”
AVCA claims dedicated standalone specialist vape stores are not the main issue. Instead, the problems occur when convenience stores partition off a part of their shop to be a “specialist vape store” enabling them to sell a full range of flavors. AVCA stated that it’s a cynical move, which might be within the new vape laws, but needs greater attention, in an email to Vapor Voice.
“These supposed ‘vape stores’ at one end of dairies [convenience stores] need greater oversight before they’re signed off and then greater enforcement. Overall, the regulations that came out of the 2020 vaping legislation are working well, but youth access remains a work in progress,” said Loucas.
A recent ASH survey on youth vaping confirmed that only two percent of youth vapers illegally purchased the vapes themselves. The rest are getting it from their friends, siblings, or parents, according to Loucas.
The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill, currently in Parliament, aims to significantly limit the number of retailers able to sell combustible tobacco by banning sales to anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 2009.
AVCA is encouraging supporters of New Zealand’s Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) approach to make a submission to Parliament’s Health Select Committee on the bill by Aug. 24.
“MPs and officials need to keep their eyes on the prize and not let a few anti-vapers hijack this all important smokefree legislation. This is not the time to try to relitigate the country’s vaping laws which were well covered in 2020. This is all about crunching the cancer sticks which is long overdue,” said Loucas.