Is Youth Vaping a problem? Some say yes others say no, but let’s get real any youth vaping or smoking is not good, let’s look closer at whats going on.
In September, NZ Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa announced her intention to introduce legislation into Parliament that would ban all e-liquid flavours other than tobacco, menthol and mint. The legislation would also prevent companies in the vaping industry from advertising their products or offering vaping products at discounted prices. The ostensible reason for the proposed flavour ban is to make vaping less attractive to teens.
Ms. Salesa’s current rhetoric regarding vaping is a far cry from statements made in late 2018 praising vaping as both “much less harmful” and “much cheaper” than smoking – and as if Ms. Salesa’s change of heart wasn’t alarming enough, a flavour ban is also entirely the wrong way to address underage vaping in New Zealand. Banning flavours isn’t the right way to make e-cigarettes less attractive to minors, and it will almost certainly cause many adult vapers to return to smoking.
We believe it is possible to combat teen e-cigarette use without stifling the continued uptake of vaping among adult smokers in New Zealand. In this article, we’ll describe a common-sense alternative for reducing underage vaping without banning the flavoured e-liquids that have helped so many adults in New Zealand – and around the world – give up smoking for good.
Make your voice heard now. Sign this petition requesting that Parliament hold a debate on the proposed e-liquid flavour ban.
Why Is an E-Liquid Flavour Ban Wrong for New Zealand?
It is our nation’s goal to virtually eliminate smoking in New Zealand by 2025. Vaping represents our only real hope of reaching that goal – and in order to get there, adult smokers must have access to vaping products that are appealing and affordable. A flavour ban will not further our goal of being smoke-free by 2025. Here’s why.
Vapers Need Appealing Flavour Options
Ms. Salesa thinks that e-liquid flavours should be banned because those flavours may potentially appeal to children. In banning flavoured e-liquids, though, Ms. Salesa’s proposal would also remove the feature of vaping that makes it most attractive to adult smokers. In 2018, Harm Reduction Journal published a study in which more than 22,000 adult vapers were asked about their vaping patterns and e-liquid flavour preferences. Of the over 22,000 volunteers, nearly 16,000 reported that they had used e-cigarettes to quit smoking. The study proved two things conclusively.
Tobacco and menthol flavours are not what adult vapers prefer. Those flavours actually rank 5th and 6th in popularity behind flavours such as fruit, candy and dessert. About three-quarters of those surveyed used fruit e-liquids. About two-thirds of adult smokers now initiate e-cigarette use with non-tobacco flavours.
The survey’s results suggest that a flavour ban would have a high likelihood of driving many adult vapers back to tobacco because the flavours that those people prefer would no longer be available. It is also very likely that a flavour ban would discourage many smokers from trying e-cigarettes at all. New Zealand won’t be smoke-free in 2025, and we’ll lose the profound impact that vaping could have had on public health.
A Flavour Ban Would Destroy Small Businesses
E-liquid is the primary consumable item used during vaping. Most small businesses in the vaping industry, therefore, earn the majority of their income from recurring e-liquid purchases. A flavour ban would reduce a typical vape shop’s inventory from hundreds of different e-liquid flavours to just a small handful of tobacco and menthol flavours. Since vape shops would have significantly fewer products to sell – and they’d likely be selling those products to a much smaller population of e-cigarette users – most New Zealand vape shops would likely close.
The notion that a flavour ban would destroy small businesses isn’t speculation – it’s a fact that has already played out in the United States. Misguided flavour bans in the U.S. have resulted in the closure or downsizing of vape shops in Oregon, Massachusetts, Washington, Rhode Island and elsewhere.
Black-Market E-Liquid Industry
A Flavour Ban Would Lead to a Black-Market E-Liquid Industry
If there’s one thing that government prohibitions have shown us, it’s that people will find a way to acquire banned products if they want those products badly enough. The Prohibition-era didn’t end alcohol consumption and sales in the United States; it led to an increase in organized crime and the proliferation of low-quality home-made liquor that sickened and killed people. Banning e-liquid flavours, likewise, won’t make flavoured e-liquids go away completely. It will, however, have three extremely undesirable side effects.
Some people will resort to making their own flavoured e-liquids at home. E-liquids will be made in unsanitary conditions and potentially with unsafe ingredients. Some people will import flavoured e-liquids from overseas, creating extra work for customs agents who should be spending their time doing more important things. Some people will produce or import flavoured e-liquid in bulk for illegal resale, creating a black market that will add further strain to New Zealand’s already overstretched police resources. How New Zealand Should Respond to Underage Vaping.
One Target market and that’s Adults
The New Zealand vaping industry has just one target market: adult smokers who either can’t quit using traditional nicotine replacement or don’t wish to discontinue nicotine use but are willing to switch to a less harmful alternative. As an industry, we have already put stringent standards in place to ensure that vaping products are only available to adults. All New Zealand vape shops are R18 and do not sell to minors. We also require those who purchase vaping products online to present identification upon delivery. While these policies can help to curb teen vaping, though, we can’t solve the problem alone – we need the government’s help.
I believe that the following three steps can eliminate underage vaping without removing the products on which so many former smokers in New Zealand depend.
Limit Sales of Vaping Products to Dedicated Vape Shops
The best way to prevent minors from buying vaping products is by selling those products in places where minors don’t go. Teens aren’t buying e-cigarettes from dedicated vape shops; they’re buying them from dairies and petrol stations where vaping products are displayed right next to cigarettes, lollies and dodgy energy supplements. Kids go to those stores, and the owners of those stores aren’t checking ID. Limiting the sale of vaping products to dedicated vape shops immediately removes most of the temptation for teens to buy those products because kids don’t go to vape shops.
End the Personal Importation of Vaping Products
There are many thousands of online vape shops around the world, and many of those shops will happily ship products anywhere. Some of those shops lack robust age verification systems, and when teens discover those shops, word quickly gets around. Personal importation of vaping products is one of the most common ways in which minors initiate vaping. Kids discover online vape shops without age verification. They then use prepaid cards to buy e-liquid or nicotine pods in bulk, and they sell those products to their friends. Ending the personal importation of vaping products from overseas will curb that trend.
Educate Parents About the Intended Purpose of E-Cigarettes
In New Zealand, one of the biggest factors influencing the growth of underage vaping is the fact that we as a nation are doing a poor job of educating parents about what e-cigarettes are and what their intended purpose is. There have actually been stories of parents buying e-cigarettes for their children because they don’t understand that those products contain nicotine and are addictive.
The answer is not for the media to demonize vaping and make adult smokers feel bad for trying to do something to improve their health. To properly educate the public about vaping, the story needs to come from the top. We suggest using the United Kingdom as a model. The UK public health system has explained to the public that e-cigarettes exist to help adult smokers quit, and underage vaping simply isn’t an issue in the UK as it is in some other places.