Natasha Hill, Te Rito Journalism Cadet
'Disingenuous': Vaping law loophole won't stop new sales near schools and marae
Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
A loophole in a law designed to curb youth vaping will allow dairies and supermarkets to avoid a new proximity rule and start selling vapes within 300m of schools and marae.
The government announced new vaping policies in June to tackle youth vaping, including a ban on specialist vape retailers (SVRs) setting up close to schools and marae.
However, the ban does not stop dairies and supermarkets within 300 metres of schools and marae, from starting to sell vapes after October 1.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed that ‘general retailers’ who do not currently sell vapes, can still set up after October 1. They will be restricted to mint, menthol and tobacco flavours.
National Party health spokesman Shane Reti says it is disingenuous for the Ministry of Health to say new vaping regulations will restrict vaping within 300m of schools.
“The minister (Ayesha Verrall) needs to answer exactly how many vape retailers, specialist or general, are currently within 300m of a school and on what grounds 300m was chosen."
“She also needs to produce an impact analysis showing how these decisions were made and what the expected impact will be.”
Verrall’s office was approached for comment, and provided a response from the Ministry of Health.
A spokesperson said the new regulations were intended to prevent the “proliferation of new SVRs within 300 metres of schools and marae”.
“The aim is to strike a balance between ensuring that some areas were still available to open SVRs and ensuring that new ones were not opened directly outside of schools and marae.”
The new proximity policy will not apply to general retailers, only SVRs.
Northcote residents recently took to social media to complain about a local dairy legally opening a vape shop on its existing premises.
The shop opened over three months ago and is located 160m from Northcote College.
Vape Free Kids NZ spokeswoman Marnie Wilton says the new announcement by the government is not doing enough to protect the kids.
“There is a huge concern in the community. For us as parents, it doesn’t really matter if we are talking SVRs or GRs, the common ingredient here is nicotine.”
She says there are new vape shops being built in West Auckland to beat the October 1 deadline.
“We’ve got new shops that are rushing in to be built… and then up the road from my son’s primary school there’s another dairy with their hammer and nails out.”
The St Mary’s College Dairy owner says he understands the concerns of the community but wishes people would come to them directly about these issues.
He says they are following government guidelines and have already received an approved licence.
“We won’t be selling it to the kids… we are going ahead with the government’s guidelines and that’s it.
“We are planning to invest more money and to make sure everything is safer. So even kids can’t even see it inside… It will be totally under the safety rules.”
Northcote MP Shanan Halbert says he has written to the owner for an open discussion on these issues.
“I strongly encouraged the shop owner to reconsider their approach, particularly as the law change is only weeks away.”
Hero image: Some retailers fear a crackdown on disposable vapes will lead to more ram raids to fuel a 'black market'. Photo / Supplied