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Vaping comments the understatement of the century – Asthma and Respiratory Foundation

The Associate Minister’s comment that vaping “got away on us” is the understatement of the century, Asthma and Respiratory Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding says.

Casey Costello told TVNZ’s Breakfast that they were slow to react and regulate when vaping was introduced to the market.

“The Foundation met with Government Ministers and Ministry of Health officials back in 2017 and 2018, warning them of the harms of vaping and urging them to strongly regulate,” Ms Harding says.

“It seems that when you are actually in Government, your ability to listen somehow declines.”

While Costello mentioned the Government was looking to tighten regulations around vaping including a total ban on disposable devices, she failed to elaborate.

“What is the Government waiting for? We need action now,” Ms Harding says.

“The current laws are doing little to address the youth vaping epidemic and it’s only getting worse.”

The Foundation has long been a strong advocate for stricter vaping laws, launching New Zealand’s first focussed Youth Vaping Survey and a vaping education website, Don’t Get Sucked In, aimed at rangatahi, whānau and schools.

Sharon Pihema, one of two Foundation staff members dedicated to educating youth in schools on the harms of vaping, says she had just finished a workshop with a group of Year 7 and 8 students who shared some shocking statistics.

“Of the students I visited in one school, 73% have been offered a vape, 77% of them had tried vaping, 100% had not touched a cigarette and 88% of them believe we have a youth vaping epidemic.”

Costello’s idea to bring back the ‘vape to quit’ programme for smokers falls short of what individuals and communities need, Ms Pihema says.

“What we need is support for youth to quit vaping – that’s the gaping hole in this whole thing.”

That’s why, last year, the Foundation launched the country’s first Youth Quit Vaping Reference Guide aimed at helping health professionals and whānau work with adolescents and young adults (AYA) to tackle vaping addiction.

“Our tamariki, our non-smokers, are getting addicted to nicotine without even touching a cigarette – no one can deny this now,” Ms Pihema says.

“But the problem is they can’t get support to quit because they are vaping, not smoking.”

The Foundation receives no government support to fund any of its youth vaping educational initiatives.

Ms Harding says that Costello and Health Minister Shane Reti need to meet with the people who know what they are talking about.

 

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