The New Zealand government has introduced new regulations to mitigate the vaping risk among minors. These include banning most disposable vapes, restricting the establishment of new vape shops near schools, and mandating generic flavour descriptions.

New Zealand plans to become smoke-free by 2025. Vaping is considered a less harmful alternative to traditional smoking for long-term adult smokers and has become a pivotal part of New Zealand’s strategy to achieve its smoke-free goals.

However, the strategy is overshadowed by the rise in vaping among youth. Recent data reveals the trend of regular teenage vapers in New Zealand tripled between 2019 and 2021.

NZ government aims to strike a balance between promoting vaping as a cessation tool and safeguarding young people from its allure.

Among the regulatory measures, the prohibition of most disposable vapes stands out. The single-use devices gained popularity due to their convenience and discrete nature. By restricting their availability, the government aims to make vaping products less appealing and harder to obtain for underage users.

The establishment of new vape shops within 300 metres of schools has been restricted. This zoning regulation aims to create a physical barrier between vaping establishments and educational institutions.

However, there remains a gap in the rules pertaining to a wide range of vaping flavours. Critics argue that specific rules should be in place to regulate the flavours known to attract younger consumers.

Youdan, director of Ash NZ, a lobby group advocating for a smoke-free New Zealand, underscores the importance of examining the broader context when regulating vaping.

Youdan highlights that the transition from smoking to vaping has been a notable factor in reducing smoking rates by one-third in New Zealand over the past few years. However, with the rapid growth of the vaping market, some businesses have prioritised profits over responsible assistance for adult smokers seeking to quit. Youdan noted that the delayed regulation of the vaping market has contributed to the escalation of this situation.

Not all young individuals using vaping products are equally impacted. While some are genuinely vape-dependent and require intervention, there are teenagers who are merely experimenting with vaping and are not addicted.

Papatoetoe High School Principal and President of the Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand, Vaughan Couillault confiscated vape pens. He points out that the misleading flavour labels on disposable vapes, such as strawberry and pineapple, seem aimed at enticing a younger crowd rather than aiding long-term smokers in their journey to quit.

Couillault observed that vaping has integrated itself into the lives of young people, and schools have not been immune to its allure. The sleek and modern designs of vaping devices, combined with highly effective marketing efforts, present vaping as a lifestyle accessory rather than solely as a smoking cessation aid.

This shift from focusing on adult smokers to the younger generation underscores the dual nature of vaping’s impact – both as a tool to reduce smoking-related harm and as a potential gateway to nicotine addiction among youth.