National | Hauora

Swapping one nicotine for another: smoking rates down but rise in rangatahi vaping

Although smoking rates are trending downward in Aotearoa, anti-smoking campaigners are becoming concerned with the increasing number of rangatahi vaping.

The government has set a goal for less than 5% of New Zealanders to be smoking by 2025.

The Smokefree Environments Bill, which is making its way through Parliament, will see the number of outlets selling tobacco reduced, and anyone born in and after 2009 will never be allowed to buy tobacco.

However, Anaru Waa, co-director of Aspire 2025 says about 20% of rangatahi Māori have taken up vaping in recent years, which is far higher than smoking rates, and is a sign that rangatahi may be swapping cigarette nicotine for vaping nicotine.

“I think, for a smoker, you can think of vaping as being less harmful than smoking tobacco. That’s an important thing to remember. Some smokers who can’t quit might choose to use them but for, say, rangatahi who have never vaped or smoked, taking up vaping is going to be more harmful for them,” he says.

Added flavours

“One of the concerns for rangatahi is that you don’t get the harshness but then you add all these flavours that might appeal to young people.”

Only 11 infringement notices around the country have been issued since the inception of the Vaping Regulatory Authority, which manages applications from retailers to become specialist vape retailers. Waa says that with one in five rangatahi vaping daily, the Vaping Regulatory Authority is not working.

“I think we need to improve the way we go about monitoring whether retailers are keeping in line, especially online monitoring.”

Though Anaru says awareness on the issue should keep going, vaping shouldn’t be a rangatahi problem.

“It’s adults that have made this stuff available and have made sure that it’s a nice refined product that can be appealing to young people.

“The new legislation does have a provision on who can sell tobacco and vapes as well, so there is an opportunity for communities to have an input in some of the decision-making processes, especially iwi Māori.”