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Sir Collin Tukuitonga gives credit to both the government and youth for reduction of vaping rates.



Medical veteran calls crackdown on 'pocket change' disposable vapes a good first step

Following a survey that revealed youth vaping has plateaued, esteemed health professional Sir Collin Tukuitonga says the government's approach is commendable but more needs to be done.

Vaimaila Leatinu'u
Aui'a Vaimaila Leatinu'u
02 April 2024, 3:31pm
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A medical veteran says the government's approach to reducing vaping is "commendable" but says there is more to do.

Speaking with Alakihihifo Vailala on 531pi's Pacific Mornings, Niuean health academic Sir Collin Tukuitonga says youth vaping rates plateaued but that keeping NZ's foot on the gas pedal is key.

"The problem is that it's become very fashionable to take up vaping [for young people]," Sir Collin says.

He says there is a "fine balance" of looking at vaping devices however as it has notably reduced cigarette smoking rates for adults wanting to quit.

Sir Collin, who works for an NGO called Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), says their recent survey garnered positive results.

"They do an annual survey of young people, 14 to 15-year-olds, every year.

"The last study showed vaping in the last two years has levelled off. Prior to that, it was rising rapidly as smoking rates went down."

The ASH survey found 15.7 per cent of Pacific youth vape daily while 22.5 per cent vape regularly, which is an increase since last year.

Sir Collin says there is potential to reduce this seen through the government's plan to dispose of single-use vapes.

"It's very cheap and readily accessible. Some people describe it as "pocket money prices to get a disposable vape."

He says he is confident in the potential behind plans to ban disposable vapes alongside increasing the fine to retailers if they sell vapes to underage customers by $10,000 for a total of $100,000.

Sir Collin also commends how youth do not smoke cigarettes as much anymore, stemming from a "peer influenced" culture.

"Young people are very peer influenced, so lets not lose sight of smoking success. Our young people don't smoke anymore.

"I know health professionals will say 'we did this' and 'we did that', but young people take cues from their friends and peers.

"They decided that smoking is not cool, smoking is not fashionable and so they stopped it."

He reiterates that the problem now is that the youth have moved to vaping and that hopefully the recent plateau in its rates is an indicator that they are retiring its novelty.

"It might be that young people decided it's not cool.

"Of course, these measures will help but at the end of the day, I think it's really what young people decide to do that's going to make a big difference."

However, the government has also made the controversial move of repealing the smoking legislation laws that were initiated to help reduce smoking rates.

They have repealed under urgency the world-first smoke-free generation law, which would have banned selling tobacco products to anyone born after 1 January 2009.

It would have also reduced the number of outlets able to sell tobacco by 90 per cent alongside removing 95 per cent of nicotine from cigarettes.

Sir Collin says he has been on record as "extremely grumpy" with the repeal.

He says the "language of the tobacco industry" is evident in the coalition government's rhetoric around crimes like ram raids.

Further to that, he says ministers and the Prime Minister may deny connections to the tobacco industry but that "anyone with half a brain" knows their approach comes from the "playbook of the tobacco industry".

"You don't need to be an Einstein to figure that out regardless of their denials, politicians in the coalition and government are closely connected to people in the tobacco industry."

Watch the full interview via 531pi's Facebook page below: