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Time for enforcement not education on vape purchases

Reports that minors are still able to purchase vape products from some convenience stores is deeply concerning, says New Zealand’s leading consumer vaping group.

“The overwhelming majority of vape retailers are responsible, requesting age identification, and only selling to those who can prove they’re 18 years or older. It’s disappointing then when media stings reveal a few retailers continue to break the law,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).

Since the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act took effect in November last year, it has been illegal to sell vapes and vaping liquids to minors, regardless if they contain nicotine or not. Prior to that, an industry code saw vape manufacturers and retailers agree not to sell to under 18s.

“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. There are some tough legislative sanctions for those retailers who continue to let everyone down, and it’s time they faced the consequences,” says Ms Loucas.

AVCA has long supported the formalisation of vaping as an R18 activity and mandatory product safety standards. However, it describes one new regulation as over the top – hitting adult smokers trying to switch to considerably less harmful vaping.

From 11 August, vape flavours will be limited to just three – mint, menthol, and tobacco – in general retail such as supermarkets, service stations and convenience stores. AVCA says this ill-conceived move could hinder the national Smokefree Aotearoa goal.

“Adult smokers love fruit and dessert vape flavours, so limiting their availability to specialist vape shops will simply mean fewer adult smokers quitting cigarettes. It will not mean fewer minors vaping. That is best achieved by getting really tough on the likes of any wayward dairy owners who continue to sell to school kids,” she says.

Nancy Loucas says it’s refreshing Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall is determined to reboot efforts around Smokefree Aotearoa. Key to achieving that, she says, will be elevating vaping in the Government’s smokefree action plan as the go-to smoking cessation tool, and ensuring good access to vape products for those keen to quit smoking.

“Point of sale is where you get tough and stop minors, not limiting the most popular flavours to adults desperate to kick the cancer sticks,” she says.

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