Youth vaping 'absolutely a big problem': Queenstown

by Lauren Pattemore - May 05, 2023

With Australia's recently announced crack down on e-cigarettes, Kiwis are asking what’s happening on their own soil, and locally it’s cause for concern.

Vapes are “widely used” amongst youth in the area, says Whakatipu Youth Trust general manager Jacqui Moir.

“From our perspective, it is absolutely a big problem.”

She’s asking the Ministry of Health to start an education campaign targeted towards young people. 

“There doesn't appear to be a lot that we're aware of. We would certainly – as a youth organisation – very much like to see some education coming out nationwide around vaping. 

“You have to create new solutions for the new issues that come along.”

She’s not aware of any education campaigns currently in the Ministry’s rotation but believed one might've been in the works pre-pandemic. 

The Ministry of Health has been approached for comment regarding youth-focussed campaigns on vaping.

There are five vape stores in Queenstown, with one 80 metres from the Wakatipu High School operated by Shosha, and another vape retailer, Cosmic, advertising it's coming to FiveMile.

The Shosha vape store, 80 metres from Wakatipu High School's boundary.

Shosha spokesperson Nabhik Gupta says the store won’t sell to high schoolers, even if the student in uniform is over 18, saying their policies are “very, very strict”. 

They’ve had numerous Ministry of Health checks since opening two and a half years ago and they’ve passed every time, he says. 

Their shop’s location was also approved by the Ministry of Health.

“In order to trade as a vape retailer, we had to apply for approval from the Ministry of Health as an approved vaping premises. We applied through them and our store is an approved vaping premises.

“Our policies have been very strict from day one. The products that we sell are mainly for the smokers.”

Ahead of the store's opening in November 2020, then Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall requested to meet with the owner about the policies and proximity to the school.

To Mr Gupta's knowledge, this meeting never happened, but he's willing to meet with the school at any time. 

The Frankton location is based on the availability of buildings and after requests from their customers to open a store in Queenstown, Mr Gupta says.

"We had our R and D team search for other locations and stuff like that, in terms of the properties, and of course, we couldn't find one in the town."

The business is growing, and Shosha now has 123 stores across the country, he says. 

It’s almost up there with the number of Countdowns and McDonalds in the country - 193 and 170 respectively. 

Australian regulations

Australia's Labour government announced on Tuesday its intention to ban single-use disposable vapes and non-prescription vaping products and require plain packaging and plain flavours. The vapes will only be available for purchase in pharmacies.

It follows a law in 2021 that banned the sale of vapes without a prescription from a doctor, but Australia's current health minister, Mark Butler says it hadn't gone far enough. 

The latest legislative changes to vaping in schools in New Zealand came in November 2020 and May 2021.

From 11 November 2020, vaping was banned from schools and early childhood centres. On May 11, 2021 education centres were required to display no smoking and no vaping signs at every entrance to their premises and every building.

The Ministry recently sought feedback on new proposals for restricting vape usage, this included limiting distance between vape shops and schools, restricting flavours, and single-use vaping products and concentrations. Feedback on these changes closed in March.

Whakatipu High School was approached for comment. 

Main image: Shosha Facebook page.

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