An anti-vaping advocate says the Government needs to do more to stop advertisers from illegally targeting children. Photo / 123RF
By Felix Walton of RNZ
An anti-vaping advocate says the Government needs to do more to stop advertisers from illegally targeting children.
A University of Auckland study found youth aged between 14 and 17 – especially Māori and Pasifika teens – were more likely to see vaping ads than those aged 18 to 20.
Researchers surveyed more than 3500 people aged between 14 and 20. Of those, half had seen vape marketing on at least one social media platform, and a quarter had clicked on or shared them.
Companies were using platforms like Instagram, sponsoring festivals and employing popular influencers to promote their products, they said.
International research has pointed to the use of social media to promote, normalise and market vaping among teenagers.
The number of users is on the rise: a 2019 survey found that 10 per cent of students were vaping regularly. By 2021, that number had risen to 20 per cent – with more than half reporting they were using higher nicotine vapes, were feeling addicted and it was damaging their health.
Vape-Free Kids NZ spokeswoman Tammy Downer said although the ads were made illegal in 2020, the Government was not doing enough to enforce current regulations – “as weak as they are”.
“They need to be stepping in and looking at a far more comprehensive range of solutions to help protect our children from a future of addiction.”
It was too easy for young people to buy the products online, she said.
“What’s really scary about these online platforms is they can link through to… over 157 speciality vape retailers that… sell online, and there’s no ID checks done on any of those.
“There’s a couple of tick boxes to say that you’re 18 and then they can buy and get them delivered wherever they want.”
She added that it was easy for children to hide the vape purchases from their caregivers and whānau.
“It’s very hard because parents aren’t on these platforms, so they don’t see what their kids are being exposed to.”