Calls for bylaw to limit ‘harmful’ positioning of vape stores

May 15, 2024

Calls for bylaw to limit ‘harmful’ positioning of vape stores

Sign encouraging vaping displayed on window of Puffgo vape store. Photo: Amani Sadique

Auckland Council is looking to introduce a bylaw on vape stores’ trading conditions due to the increase in stores and concerns about the harm they are causing to youth.

Member of the Council’s Regulatory and Community Safety Committee and Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa Ward Councillor Julie Fairey says she has recently been working with other Council staff on the potential bylaw.

“I’m hoping we may be heading in the process and structure that may look like off-licenses for alcohol, but for vaping.

According to Fairey, stores with off-licenses must explain how they are minimising harm to their customers – for example agreeing not to sell to anyone in school uniform.

“Those restrictions could be useful to reducing underage people buying vapes.”

Fairey thinks there is a similarity between vape stores and liquor stores in their tendency to operate in low-income areas, where there is more harm in terms of recorded incidents in emergency departments.

Maria Bellringer is the director of the Gambling and Addictions Research Centre at AUT.

She compares the development of vape addiction to gambling, saying the more available and accessible the source is, the more people will participate in the behaviour.

“With vaping being a potentially harmful activity, it is not in the interest of public health to have multiple stores within close proximity of each other - especially if they are within easy walking or short driving distance of homes or workplaces.

“Gambling venues are generally more accessible in more deprived areas, especially pokie machine venues.

“If this is the case with vape stores in Aotearoa then it is likely that the vape industry is targeting disadvantaged populations, contributing to health and social inequities experienced by those populations.”

The number of students stood down for vaping or smoking increased from 327 in 2020 to 1221 in 2023, according to data released by the Ministry of Education.

In a statement from the Ministry of Health, spokesperson Jane Chambers suggests ways we can better protect young people from vaping.

“Removing vaping products that are popular with young people from the market, reducing the visibility and proximity of all vaping products to young people, and improving compliance of retailers by increasing penalties for sale to minors.”

Fairey says there’s still doubts over whether the bylaw could be legally possible.

“A bylaw usually takes around two years to create and consult on.

“There can potentially be appeals once we have decided on it.”

Australia currently requires a prescription for all purchases of vapes containing nicotine, and it is illegal for retailers such as tobacconists, vape shops and convenience stores to sell consumers vapes, even with a prescription since 2021.

Fairey says that Aotearoa should be taking notes from this prescription model and that it would be an innovative idea to introduce a similar goal to Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, but for vaping.

Chambers says the Government is committed to achieving the current Smokefree 2025 goal and to ‘continuing a multipronged approach to achieve the goal using regulatory and non-regulatory measures.’

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Amani Sadique May 15, 2024