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Research Funding Too Little Too Late for Youth Vapers Desperate to Quit Amidst Growing Evidence Vaping Leads to Smoking

A recent study showing that those taking up vaping are more likely to start smoking should ring alarm bells, given the exponential increase in youth vaping around the country.

Anna Stewart, a spokesperson for Vape-Free Kids NZ (VFK NZ), a grassroots group calling for more action to prevent harm to rangatahi from vaping, says, “If the goal is to have a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025, and research shows that vaping can lead to smoking, why are we allowing children who would never have taken up smoking to start vaping in the first place?”

The Ministry of Health’s own data shows that the number of 15 to 17 year olds who vaped every day had quadrupled in three years, from 2 percent in 2018-19 to 8 percent in 2021-22, and that figure is likely to be even higher today.

“While we welcome today’s announcement that the Government will fund research into helping people quit vaping, we all know that prevention is the best cure. Why are we allowing a whole new generation to become addicted to nicotine through easily available vape products that are attractively marketed to youth?”

Recruitment for the trial does not begin until January next year, and will only allow those 16 and over who have been vaping daily for more than six months to participate. This does not address the increasing number of under 16s picking up the habit by purchasing vapes from the many retailers already in the community, an issue which is exacerbated by the lack of enforcement of laws against stores selling to under 18s.

On top of this, youth vapers wanting to quit are struggling to get help. “It is simply outrageous that Te Whatu Ora are directing children wanting to quit vaping to speak with specialist vape retailers (SVRs) for help to kick the habit. Under 18s are not even supposed to legally enter the stores, which have a vested interest in selling more products to stay in business. Why would they do anything to lose their customer base? On top of that, are the staff even properly trained to help those wanting to quit?”

“More and more concerned parents and caregivers are joining our group daily, demanding immediate action from the government to halt the rising number of rangatahi from becoming hooked on nicotine. As long as vapes are widely and cheaply available across the motu, we will continue to advocate for urgent changes to stop vape companies from preying on our youth.”

VFK NZ was created 7 weeks ago and has gained almost 1500 members.

The group has launched two petitions calling for action on the issue at (3000+ signatures to date) and (6,500+ signatures to date).