Election 2023: Labour promises to cap number of vape stores, enforce harsher penalties for underage sales

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty Images

Labour is promising to take further action to crack down on youth vaping, saying it would cap the number of stores nationwide and ramp up penalties for those who sell to underage people.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said the recent increase in youth vaping is "unacceptable" and those who produce and sell vapes are targeting young people, especially those in low socio-economic areas.

If re-elected, Labour would:

  • cap the number of vape stores nationally to 600
  • make all retailers, including dairies, obtain a license to sell vaping products
  • enforce harsher legal penalties of up to $15,000 for retailers who sell to youth
  • look to make vape products less visible from the storefront.

Hipkins said the cap on stores will reduce the number of outlets selling vapes by more than half. In addition, the licence regime will both be able to reduce the number of outlets that sell vapes and also ensure there aren't clusters of vape stores targeting schools or low socio-economic communities.

Not only are penalties for retailers found to be selling vaping products to underage children increasing from up to $10,000 to up to $15,000, but so too are the fines for adults. The penalties for adults who are found to have supplied vape products to underaged children is increasing from up to $5000 to up to $10,000.

On Monday, the Labour Government confirmed new regulations to limit youth vaping will come into effect on September 21.

It means all vaping devices sold in New Zealand will need to have removable batteries and new specialist vape shops cannot be within 300 metres of schools and marae. Additionally, vapes will need child safety mechanisms and names of flavours like 'cotton candy' or 'strawberry jelly doughnut' will be prohibited. Only generic names which accurately describe the flavours can be used, such as 'orange' or 'berry'.

The maximum concentration of nicotine allowed in vapes has also been reduced. It is now 20mg/mL for single-use vapes and 28.5mg/mL for reusable vaping products that contain nicotine only in salt form.

Hipkins said on Tuesday the way vape retailers are targeting young New Zealanders and poorer communities must stop. He believes that his party's plan will help stamp out youth vaping.

Meanwhile, Labour's health spokesperson Dr Ayesha Verrall said while vaping has been an important tool to help adult smokers give up, the number of young people vaping daily has more than tripled between 2019 and 2021.

"In the same way we are stamping out smoking, this plan can make a real difference to stop vaping," Dr Verrall said. "We know public health messaging is effective and can help educate young people on the true harms of vaping. We will build on the Protect Your Breath campaign to combat misinformation and disinformation about the reality of vaping."

National Party leader Christopher Luxon has previously said it's time to "stop and take a look at what's actually going on and what rules are needed" in regard to vaping. He said he's "open to all things to be honest" when asked about a ban.

"I really think we've got our vape settings wrong here in New Zealand, I would really like us to take a step back and really look at them closely," he said in May.