The Foundation reviewed its vaping regulation recommendations against current laws and policies and produced a ‘report card’ for the Government, which shows it still has significant areas for improvement to address the youth vaping epidemic.

Foundation chief executive Letitia Harding says the Government needs to engage with and listen to specialists outside of the Ministry of Health when it comes to vaping and protecting the health and wellbeing of our rangatahi.

“We’ve just been through a pandemic – protecting lung and heart health should be an absolute priority for the Government,” she says.

Statistics show one-in-seven New Zealanders suffer from a respiratory condition, and one-in-five high school students regularly vape. 

“You don’t have to be a mathematician to see that we are on the cusp of a serious future health crisis,” Harding adds.

Since 2017 the Foundation has been advocating for evidence-based vaping regulations.

Recommendations include limiting nicotine content in all vapes to 20mg/ml, banning all disposable vapes, banning front-of-window advertising and product displays, preventing the sale of vapes within a 1km radius of schools, investing in vaping education for youth, halting the further establishment of Specialist Vape Retailers (SVRs), and investing in quit-vaping support services for rangatahi.

To date, the Government has banned all disposable vapes (effective from October, 2024) and has restricted the sale of vapes by an SVR within 300 metres of schools and marae. Dairies and supermarkets, however, are not restricted by proximity.

“While we give the Government credit where it is due, it has been slow, and there is still a lot of work to be done,” Harding says.

“We need to do more to protect our most vulnerable, our rangatahi, and – at the moment – there seems to be a foot on the brake.”

According to Harding, the Foundation often hears stories of children – some as young as six – becoming addicted to vaping.

“This is proof that our youth vaping epidemic is not going away anytime soon, so we need to fight to do everything we can to protect the health of our next generation.

“We need commitment from the Government to stop any more SVRs, actually monitor all vape retailers with boots on the ground, and enforce harsher penalties for those retailers who are still flouting the rules.”

This Government has an opportunity to make bold immediate moves to help tackle the youth vaping issue, she says.

“But, first, we need them to listen and pay attention to those who have been giving the same evidence-based advice since 2017.”