'A drug delivery device' - marketing expert joins calls for vapes to be regulated like cigarettes

A marketing expert has followed the Cancer Society in calling for e-cigarettes and vapes to be regulated in New Zealand, saying they're a drug delivery device and advertising of them looks like the 1950s and '60s when tobacco companies were trying to get people to smoke. 

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AUT senior marketing lecturer Dr Sommer Kapitan gives her thoughts. Source: Seven Sharp

A nationwide survey by the Cancer Society released this week showed nearly 90 per cent of secondary schools and eight per cent of primary schools are aware of students vaping at school.

Auckland University of Technology senior marketing lecturer Dr Sommer Kapitan told Seven Sharp that a District Court decision about 18 months ago has meant a marketing free-for-all in which vapes can be purchased, sold, used and advertised anywhere, whereas previously a user had to order one online and import it.

Dr Kapitan said vaping advertising is "a lot about alluring imagery and sex appeal - powerful, bright colours". 

"A lot of the advertising itself is aimed at creating a new market place for vape users. So it's not necessarily targeting smokers who are trying to quit, rather it's looking at non smokers or vape curious to get them into a sleek new product - and gives you so much more nicotine in different doses and different amounts," she said.

"It looks like the 1950s and 1960s when they were trying to get people to smoke. It looks like big tobacco is coming in and trying to make a new marketplace of growth."

Dr Kapitan said vapes and e-cigarettes should be regulated the same way cigarettes are. 

"We have an issue now where there's a free marketplace that means that vapes are just available at your corner dairy. When we used to have to go online to purchase these, now they're available at the dairy, we walk in the store we can find them. 

"It's a drug delivery device, we need to treat it the same way we treat our tobacco."

Dr Kapitan said what alarms her "is that we are seeing the positioning and advertising of vapes as something desirable, as something appealing". 

She said in the first six months of this year, Nielsen reported $2 million was spent on vaping advertisements, a 190 per cent increase on 2018.

"That means that our young people, that all of our population, is being exposed to imagery around vapes that is more familiar, that is more visible and that might increase uptake of vapes."

RNZ this week reported Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa will introduce a vape regulation bill to Parliament in a few weeks, limiting vape flavours.  

Also under consideration is prohibiting all advertising, promotion and sponsorship of vaping products and placing limits on nicotine strength.