Referring to a recent frontpage nationwide newspaper story, headlined ‘Vaping – at 10’, AVCA co-director Nancy Loucas recently spoke out, highlighting the irony in the title. “Why don’t we see ‘Smoking – at 10’, ‘Drinking – at 10’, ‘Drugs – at 10’ media stories? It’s all about vaping, which is ironic given it’s the least harmful.”
Earlier this year, the AVCA had highlighted that the publication of increasingly negative stories regarding vaping were no accident, and were being timed to coincide with current political events taking place at the time. “Just when Cabinet is about to approve the Ministry of Health’s latest vaping regulations and finalise Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall’s smokefree action plan, out come the attacks on vaping. Given vaping is New Zealand’s most effective smoking cessation tool, some balance in the debate is.”
Vaping’s possible key role in achieving the Smokefree goal must be recognized
In a more recent release, the group referred to similar damaging comments made on Maori television show, The Hui, which investigated the uptake of vaping amongst rangatahi, and alleged resulting stand-offs at home and stand-downs at school. Loucas highlighted that while teen vaping is unacceptable, the issue has already been well addressed. “Vaping by minors is completely unacceptable. However, let’s not forget that vaping products are strictly R18 following last year’s Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act.”
“The Government now needs to get really tough at the point of sale, applying the toughest penalties available for those caught selling or supplying to minors,” she says. Moreover, recent data has put any fears about possible rising teen vaping rates at rest. “After examining a survey of over 27,000 secondary school students, University of Auckland researchers last year found that only 0.8% of 14 and 15-year-olds, who had never smoked, were regular vapers. Researchers subsequently confirmed there was no youth vaping epidemic in New Zealand,” added Loucas.
She went on to say it’s important to recognize vaping’s possible key role in New Zealand achieving the Smokefree Aotearoa goal. “Let’s not keep trashing the best thing we have to achieving smokefree. More than enough measures are in place to protect our rangitahi – or young people. We now just need all retailers to enforce the age restriction. The role of parents, whanau, and schools is also critical.”
The Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan
Meanwhile the long awaited Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan was finally launched on Thursday 9th December 2021. And while commended for what it aims to achieve, sadly it fails to include vaping products as effective smoking cessation tools.
On the otherhand, New Zealand’s Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall, has been commended for engaging with a number of health entities to gather opinions about the action plan before finalizing it. These included organisations, services, advocates, academics, researchers and individuals who have left a mark on their communities.