What is it?

This resource location or “vape cooperative”  is a one stop shop for harm reduction – specifically tobacco harm reduction.    Individuals can access information, guidance, and equipment to make the switch from combustible tobacco smoking to vaping.  It is run by an AVCA VIF Mentor/Advocate who volunteers their time and knowledge to educate and support smokers and other interested community members, about all things ‘vape’ related.

“Cooperative” has a dual meaning – the first is that it is a community operated and supported resource, community being not just AVCA mentors but also and health care professionals and community advocates; the second being vendor cooperative – the VC sets up the individual at the start of their journey from tobacco to vape, AVCA supports the individual through mentoring with a dedicated advocate/vape buddy and then, after 8 weeks of mentoring, the individual is then referred to vendors for the continuation of their journey.

Where is it (are they) located?

This is a resource location located in smaller towns and regions that are not easily/directly served by a vape vendor.  “Not served” means that it is at least one hour from the closest Brick and Mortar Vape Shop.

The pilot program for an actual physical location is in Masterton, Wairarapa.  This location was chosen because a) Wairarapa has one of the highest Maori smoking rates in the lower North Island and b) there are quite a few AVCA members that live and work in the Wairarapa community and have networks within the wider area.

Why are they necessary?

There has been a need to provide better access to vaping equipment and supplies in the provinces and rural areas.   Part of this is driven by the fact that in these particular areas, there are higher combustible tobacco smoking rates, especially among youth and Maori.   Concurrently, in these areas there is also a cohort of individuals with additional socioeconomic barriers such as income and health issues that prevents them from full access to the online vaping community.

With the current Smoking Cessation Provider mandate by MoH, and the agency/agencies that administer the program for MoH –  the KPIs for the smoking cessation providers is to keep track of referrals, offer advice, support and MoH funded NRT and medications for one calendar month and once a “client” is one month smoke free, they can be listed as a “success” in the system.   

The problem with this process is that most smokers who relapse, do so between the first and second months of cessation.  The smoking cessation providers do not have the funding to provide any continuity of care beyond the one month funded time frame that they are given.  Many are lost in the cracks and become repeat “clients” of the providers who are then penalised for these “repeat clients” in their stats and audits as not being “successful” in their mandate.  This is not the fault of the cessation providers, but the flaw in the system as it is currently setup and funded by the Ministry of Health.  We fully support the smoking cessation providers, contractors, nurses who have the same mission that we do – get people off combustible tobacco, for good!

How does it work?

In the Wairarapa pilot program, a vape cooperative was set up by an individual AVCA mentor advocate, with an initial investment of $500.  This money was used to purchase authentic starter kits and e-liquid to distribute to referrals from the AVCA VIF program/Community outreach advocates for cost plus shipping.  

Within the first two months, the program was self sustaining. The kits were sold to the new vapers, either directly or via a layby program and once the new vapers had completed 8 weeks of mentoring and advice, they were then referred onwards to the VTANZ vendors and the online communities (Facebook) for additional support.

The first month, 25 individuals bought kits and were signed onto the AVCA VIF program.  The second month that number doubled, and the numbers have remained steady at 5 new vapers per week that come in either via community referral.  All the monies that are received through the sales of kit are put back into the program, as part of the non-profit requirement of AVCA being a charity.

We hope to expand this pilot program to other locations in the future, after an assessment process that will take place in April 2017.

Areas for consideration of a Vape Cooperative are: Timaru, Gisborne, Northland and Central Otago.   Determination will be made as needs are assessed and as funds permit. 

Key Performance Indicator (KPI’s)

The key to the success of the program is the support mechanism provided through the AVCA VIF program.  Mentor/Advocates are teamed with new vapers who have access to a vape buddy to help them with any issues that may arise with their equipment, as well as a resource of someone who has “been there, done that” and understands the struggle of beating combustible tobacco.   

With the AVCA VIF program, the KPI is based on success with vaping after the initial 8 week mentoring process as well as three and six month follow ups with former new vapers.    As of December 2016, the success rate of the VIF program nationwide in total has been 95% since its inception in April 2016.    

Our main KPI is to assess the one year success rate once we reach April 2017.  It is at that time we will assess expansion into other areas outside of Masterton.

Author

Nancy comes from a diverse administrative background that includes surgical research administration, teaching (primary and tertiary level), executive administration and community property management. For over 15 years she has been very active in community advocacy with youth, lower income folk needing advocacy and now, vaping advocacy. She brings a wealth of scientific, medical and research administrative/management knowledge with her to her role as CEO/Director at AVCA.