Vaping exploding among New Zealand youth

Like their British cousins, most public health authorities in New Zealand have embraced e-cigarettes for harm reduction. In contrast to heavily regulated cigarettes (no advertising, plain packaging, graphic warning labels, no power walls, strong smokefree laws), e-cigs were introduced to New Zealand in around 2017 without any regulations on marketing and advertising no controls on retailers and not even age restrictions. In 2018 Philip Morris’ heated tobacco product IQOS was exempted from the Smoke-free Environments Act. E-cig enthusiasts argued that e-cigs were harm reduction devices for established smokers and there was no need to worry about kids.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand in partnership with the Secondary Principals’ Association just released the results of the largest-ever NZ survey asking secondary school students about their vaping habits. The survey found:

  • 26% of students reported vaping and 15% reported smoking cigarettes in the past week 
  • Nearly 20% of students are vaping daily or several times a day
  • Over half of those vaping were vaping more frequently and at higher nicotine doses than last year. 

They made several recommendations to undo the damage that New Zealand’s laizze faire policy environment on e-cigarettes has done, including limiting the content of nicotine available to a maximum of 20mg (2%), raising the legal age to purchase e-cigarettes to 21 years, banning in-front-of-store window advertising and product, and banning sales within 1 kilometer (half a mile) of schools as well as stepped up education.

While all good ideas, they would still leave e-cigarettes much less regulated than cigarettes. New Zealand — a leader in cigarette regulation — needs to go much further to get e-cigarettes under control.

Another lesson for e-cig enthusiasts around the world is to note how heavy the use is. Many keep insisting that even if kids are using e-cigs they aren’t that addicted. The New Zealand experience shows that is not the case.

The full report is available here.

Published by Stanton Glantz

Stanton Glantz is a retired Professor of Medicine who served on the University of California San Francisco faculty for 45 years. He conducts research on tobacco and cannabis control and cardiovascular disease/

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