New laws banning disposable and fruity flavoured vapes and new retailers operating within 300m of schools and marae were announced in June by Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, but with a three-month lead-in time before enforcement begins.
Dairies have been seen opening new vape stores on their premises in communities across the country and one petition taken to Parliament this week with more than 13,000 signatures is calling for vape shops to be closed within all dairies, supermarkets, and gas stations.
The Prime Minister says he’s very concerned by the number of young New Zealanders taking up vaping, and while some changes have been announced by the Government, he’s not ruling out going further.
“All options are on the table when it comes to stopping young people getting into vaping,” he told Newsroom.
He wouldn’t commit to closing all vape stores within proximity to schools but says he will look at any evidence that suggests new ones have been opening up ahead of October 1 when the new laws come into force.
Hipkins said there were “complicated legal issues” that would need to be considered if the Government was going to consider shutting the doors on vape shops that opened in the months between June and October.
“I’m not making any commitments on that today, but I’m saying that I’d be happy to look at it if that is what has been happening,” he told Newsroom.
“I’m not ruling out doing something but it’s something we’d have to look at the ins and outs of.”
Both the Greens and Te Pāti Māori support clamping down on stores that have opened near schools in the intervening period.
Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick told Newsroom the select committee that worked through the changes didn’t have it flagged with them that the lead-in time would be used to open new shops but she noted it had happened with other legislation, such as restrictions imposed on liquor stores.
Swarbrick wants an evidential base for law changes, “not just the anecdotes”, and says having a lead-in time allows for that and provides MPs with evidence to make further interventions where necessary.
Rather than just pulling vapes off the shelves or making them prescription-only as Australia has done, Swarbrick says it’s important to see the impact of the changes that have already been announced.
Otherwise, knee-jerk responses can lead to negative consequences like vaping on the black market, as she says is now the case in Australia.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi wants more protective measures for rangatahi taking up vaping at a rapid pace, including closing any new stores setting up near schools.
But he doesn’t support measures singling out marae because it “feel a little bit targeted”.
He wants the focus on all vulnerable communities feeling the impacts of an excessive number of vape and liquor stores in operation.
Act Party leader David Seymour favours only shops with a liquor licence being able to sell vapes.
“Then you’ve got a network of stores that are already far from schools, already have restrictions on checking ID, already have their age restrictions enforced. I think that would be the best approach,” he said.
National doesn’t believe the current settings are right around vaping in New Zealand but will address the specifics when it makes policy announcements ahead of the election.
However, National’s deputy leader Nicola Willis told Newsroom she isn’t a fan of vape stores being near schools.
“As a Mum, I find it despicable that there is a vaping shop around the corner from my son’s school – I don’t want it there.”