Friday 5 May 2023

Youth vaping rules

If youths are vaping, it's not for want of rules prohibiting supplying youths with vape.

The rules are broadly modelled on the rules around supplying minors with alcohol.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act has a fine of up to $10k on licensees selling alcohol to minors and up to $2k for others.

The SmokeFree Environments and Regulated Products Act [I'll still call this SFEA out of habit, not SFERPA] has a fine of up to $10k for a business selling vape to minors and of up to $5k for others.

For alcohol, it's a defence to have believed on reasonable grounds that the customer was not under the purchase age - like if they provided a very credible fake ID. See 239(6).

Same deal for vape (and cigarettes, and other regulated product) at 40(4) of SFEA.

For alcohol, there's exemption in licensed premises if the minor is accompanied by parent or guardian and is supplied by the parent or guardian (240). No such exemption for vape as there aren't licensed premises.

Section 241 of SSAA prohibits alcohol supply to minors anywhere, on pain of a fine of no more than $2k, unless supply is by a parent, with consent of a parent, or if there were reasonable grounds for not believing the minor to be a minor. 

Section 41 of SFEA prohibits vape supply to minors in public places on pain of a fine of no more than $2k. There's a defence if the minor supplied a credible fake ID (4), or if the kid just took your stuff without your knowledge and where you took reasonable precaution to avoid it. 

So a parent at a restaurant can order a beer for their 17 year old, and can give permission for their kid to be supplied with one in a public place or a private place. A parent cannot give permission for their child to be supplied with a vape in a public place. 

But, there are no restrictions on providing a vape to a minor in a private place like a living room.

I don't know that there's a good case for tightened restrictions on access by minors. I also wouldn't support restrictions on kids getting a frappucino. Nicotine without combustion isn't that different from caffeine.

But if the government or an incoming government really wanted to do that, it could have parts of the vape rules more closely mirror the alcohol rules in prohibiting supply to minors regardless of whether it's a public or private place. If it did so, it really ought to also copy over the exemptions for supply by parents or guardians. 

Section 343 of SSAA makes it an offence for a minor to purchase alcohol from a licensed premise, subject to a fine of not more than $2k. Presumably this gets invoked if someone did use a fake ID and put the shop at risk. This bit could also be ported over, if you think that fining kids for trying to buy a vape with a fake ID is a good idea. Don't think it causes much harm, as compared to fining kids for possession. 

But worst of all would be if National, spurred on by Mike Hosking's crusade against vaping on Newstalk ZB, put in Australian-style restrictions. We'd wind up with a giant black market in vapes, and more harms because of it. The current regime has product notification rules that ensure that ingredients are notified, and if something's found to be a problem, they'll know what products carry it. Black market vapes aren't in that regime.

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