“It’s vaping advocates who first raised concerns about the proliferation of convenience stores becoming specialist vape retailers (SVRs). New Zealand’s Asthma and Respiratory Foundation’s (ARFNZ) latest round of public scaremongering is not helpful,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
Her comments follow the ARFNZ, on its latest anti-vaping media drive, highlighting that ‘in February 2022 there were 666 registered specialist vape retailers in New Zealand and as of today we now have 956’.
“Not one Kiwi has reportedly died from vaping, yet 5,000 die every year from smoking-related illnesses. Despite this, the ARFNZ continues to obsess about the most effective smoking cessation tool we have. Its latest media beat up doesn’t help one Kiwi quit tobacco nor help New Zealand achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” she says.
Ms Loucas says ARFNZ should focus on ending the tobacco scourge that continues to wreck families and communities, rather than try to relitigate the country’s vaping legislation which Parliament and health leaders well scrutinised and debated in 2020.
“The latest Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill is all about making tobacco products less appealing and less accessible. ARFNZ needs to focus on the task at hand, not get side-tracked with its latest push to rid society of nicotine. It’s tobacco that kills,” she says.
AVCA has repeatedly raised this year that while most dedicated and genuine standalone SVRs are working well, problems remain with the likes of convenience stores partitioning off part of their shops to be SVRs, enabling them to sell a full range of flavours.
Since 2020 only licenced SVRs can stock all flavours. General retailers such as convenience stores are limited to selling just mint, menthol, and tobacco flavours.
“There are too many convenience stores now claiming to be SVRs when they are clearly not. The main issues can be sorted out within the existing vaping regulations. It just needs greater attention and more resourcing. It doesn’t require additional legislation,” she says.
AVCA has also continued to call for rogue convenience stores owners who sell vapes to minors to have the book thrown at them. Significant sanctions apply to those retailers who break the R18 rule which should now be strictly enforced. AVCA believes the Government’s ‘education’ period has long expired.
“Every time ARFNZ publicly campaigns against vaping, not smoking, it only puts smokers off switching to the most viable alternative. ARFNZ fails to recognise that Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall continues to promote ‘supporting people who smoke tobacco to successfully switch to less harmful products’,” she says
AVCA says New Zealand’s overall smoking rate has halved over the past decade largely due to vaping and the regulation of it, with Public Health England resolute that nicotine vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking combustible tobacco.
“New Zealand has adopted a Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategy that has worked a treat, with many countries envious of our falling smoking rate. Only last month, a Malaysian parliamentary delegation visited to understand how we’re managing to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 – where five percent of fewer smoke. ARFNZ’s constant scaremongering about vaping puts that all at risk,” says Nancy Loucas.