National | Rangatahi

'Urgent action' needed for rangatahi vape use - Asthma Foundation CEO

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand is welcoming recent government proposals to further restrict vaping for rangatahi but says urgent action is required for vulnerable communities.

It comes as the government seeks feedback on measures to reduce rangatahi vaping numbers.

The proposals include restrictions on single-use vaping products, proximity restrictions of vape retailers and more. The foundation's chief executive, Letitia Harding, says more can be done such as capping the nicotine level, and having a "hands-on" community educational approach for young people.

The current nicotine level cap is 50mg/ml. While the government is proposing to reduce it to 35mg/ml in disposable vapes, the foundation wants that cap at 20mg/ml instead.

"We don't want our rangatahi becoming dependent on these products," Harding says.

'Not good for your lungs'

"It's why, last year, the foundation was fortunate to appoint our first Āpiha Takawaenga Māori (Māori community liaison) down in Te Tai Rāwhiti. That's because we wanted to work with rangatahi in the community to find out how we can help, how we can educate and tell you guys 'Hey, this isn't good for your lungs.'"

It's a role created as part of a six-month pilot programme where liaison Sharon Pihema developed a youth education programme with a focus on kaupapa Māori methodology. She worked with whānau, hapū and iwi groups, kura and schools, iwi health practitioners and community organisations to improve the respiratory health outcomes for Māori.

Getting rangatahi to kick the vape to the curb.

Recent figures from the ASH New Zealand Survey found 34% of Māori teens aged 14 and 15 years-old vaped regularly. It's even higher for Māori girls of the same age at 40%.

"We get calls from concerned parents saying their kids are waking up in the middle of the night to have a vape. They're taking their vape to the shower. We don't want that for our rangatahi."

A funding request to Te Aka Whai Ora has been made to set up four more Āpiha Takawaenga Māori roles in Te Tai Tokerau, Tāmaki Makaurau, Waikato and Ōtautahi, as part of their pilot programme.

"The foundation is ready for the mahi. We're going to keep doing it, we're going to keep fighting it."

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