NOT BY OUR SCHOOLS
A vape store to open near three schools in Gisborne is showing “utter contempt” for the issue of vaping among students, says Mayor Rehette Stoltz.
The store is to open in the former office of Cabinet Minister and Labour MP Kiri Allan on the corner of Stanley and Gladstone roads.
Gisborne Girls' High is diagonally across the road, Gisborne Boys' High is 235 metres away on Stanley Road and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Horouta Wananga is in nearby Desmond Road.
While liquor stores need a licence to sell, vape stores do not.
Inside the building when The Herald went to the site were new cabinets and boxes addressed to Kolotex Limited, a national chain of retailers which “specialises in selling tobacco at New Zealand best online prices plus electronic cigarettes, shisha pipes and other R18 products”.
Mayor Rehette Stoltz is not happy.
“It is well known that schools around New Zealand are struggling with the rise of vaping among students as young as 11, so opening a vape shop only metres away from two high schools shows utter contempt for this issue.
“Although there are few regulatory options to prevent this activity currently, it raises ethical questions for business owners about where they choose to trade,” said Mayor Stoltz.
“The council is looking into whether the building at 542 Gladstone Road can still be utilised for a retail use (such as a vape store) given that it hasn't been used for this purpose for a number of years now.
“The Ministry of Health consulted on their Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act earlier this year and regulations are expected to be announced in August.
“I hope this includes mechanisms for local authorities to restrict where these businesses can operate.”
Girls' High student Erika McKee said many students thought the vape store would negatively influence the large number of students who go to the dairy and bakery next door.
“Although most students are too young to buy vapes (18 years and over), the vape shop may result in them asking older friends or family to buy for them before or after school,” Erika said.
“It's a negative influence to have close to schools.”
Another student told Erika most students begin vaping because it was trendy. They then got addicted to nicotine.
A single vape pod for a JUUL e-cigarette is roughly equivalent to about 20 cigarettes.
Research by Health Promotion Agency Te Hiringa Hauora into teen vaping shows the proportion of students who have tried e-cigarettes has been steadily increasing.
A 2018 survey of 14 and 15-year-olds showed 38 percent of students had tried vaping — up from 29 percent two years before.
Teenage vapers' top reasons for smoking e-cigarettes was because they liked the flavours and enjoyed vaping with their friends.
The same research said Maori were two times more likely to be vapers than non-Maori.
Of the roughly 1750 students at the nearby schools, about 65 percent of the students identify as Maori.
Gisborne Boys' and Girls' High principals Jan Kumar and Andrew Turner said they appreciated that vaping helped smokers transition away from smoking, but that did not mean a vape store should be right in front of so many students.
“There is very little parking at this site and the predominant foot traffic is school- age students,” they said.
“What clientele are they targeting?”
“Having a shop in close proximity to our schools is not helpful. This is a prime location to promote something that we are working hard to remove as a distraction for our students.
The principals said young people were experimenting with vaping because of its accessibility and were becoming addicted in the process, impacting their health and learning.
“It's too early to understand the long-term health impact of vaping on adolescence.”
Gisborne district councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown agrees.
“We know that vaping has been given this label, that it's less harmful than tobacco. And so there's a push in the health space to get people to vape as opposed to smoking.
“However, in my view we don't have enough research to see what damage is being done to lungs.”
Vape liquids have all the smells and tastes young people are attracted to. They are flavoured like lollies and are discreet and trendy, attracting young people to try them, Cr Akuhata-Brown said.
“Now these shops are opening up next to high schools. That will filter down into the primary sector because what older siblings do, younger siblings generally want to try.
“I fear for the lungs of a generation.”
Cr Akuhata-Brown challenged the vape store owner's ethical and moral stance.
“Why would you choose to be in a space that is so youth-centric? Is that your whole reason for being there? You're sending an unhealthy message.
“You want to make money and that's what your industry is about, but there are other spaces where you can open a retail outlet.
“Please, don't open a store near two of our main high schools . . . send a strong message that you do have morals.”
Building owner Georg Winkler told The Herald he knew the tenant would be selling vape products but did not think there would be much concern from the community.
“I looked at the pros and cons and saw there was already a vape store right there in the dairy (next to the store) and also another dairy a couple of hundred metres down the road,” Mr Winkler said.
“They're a national company with good controls and reasoned approach, not some fly-by-nighter.
“I think it's gotta be better than smoking.”
Mr Winkler said the company told him it would have a strict policy of not allowing students in uniform into the store and was considering closing during school hours.
The laws around buying nicotine products were strict so students could not purchase anything.
But he was open to hearing from the public.
“It's good to hear other people's perspectives on it. I always like to do things right. That's always been my policy.”
Mr Winkler gave The Herald a contact number for the tenant.
The person who answered declined to comment and would not provide the company owner's name or contact details.
However, a companies search shows Nelson Chamberlain owns Kolotex Limited. According to his LinkedIn profile, he is the owner of Discount T, a national chain of tobacco retailers.
There are two Discount T stores in Gisborne, one in Kaiti Hub and the other on Gladstone Road.
Mr Chamberlain had “no comment” when contacted by The Herald.