NZ stores need to first sort out vaping inconsistencies
“Convenience store owners are right to say being allowed to sell only three vape flavours is not helping New Zealand achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025, but some of them are not helping themselves,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
The leading Tobacco Harm Reduction advocate’s comments come as Parliament’s Health Select Committee reviews submissions on the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill.
The Dairy & Business Owners Group has accused the Government of destroying thousands of small businesses with restrictions on vaping products, including flavours.
“Convenience store owners shouldn’t be limited flavour wise, but a few of them need to first clean up their own backyard. Rogue store owners who continue to sell vapes to minors need the book thrown at them and fast. Again, we urge the Government for more compliance checks and greater enforcement,” says Ms Loucas.
Since the 2020 vaping legislation was passed and subsequent regulations enacted, only licenced Specialist Vape Retailers (SVRs) can stock a full range of flavours. General retailers such as convenience stores are limited to selling just mint, menthol, and tobacco flavours. Many dairies have subsequently separated off part of their premises to be SVRs.
AVCA says dedicated and genuine standalone SVRs are working well. However, where the problems seem to be occurring is when convenience stores partition off a part of their shop to a be a SVR enabling them to sell a full range of flavours. AVCA says it’s a cynical move, which might be within the new vape laws, but needs greater attention.
“There’s too much inconsistency around the level of product expertise available to consumers and enforcement from the regulator. General retailers are just not sufficiently trained. Yes, to them selling closed systems like pods strictly to 18-year-olds or over, but no to them selling open tanks or any products where they need to explain best practice to customers,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA says the two main issues around youth vaping remain a lack of enforcement and parental responsibility. The issue is not the vapes themselves, noting that Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall recently said: ‘We need to continue supporting people who smoke tobacco to successfully switch to less harmful products.’
The Government’s bill limits the number of retailers able to sell smoked tobacco products, prohibits the sale of tobacco products to anyone born in 2009 or after, and aims to make tobacco products less appealing and addictive.
Thanks largely to vaping, New Zealand’s overall smoking rate has halved in the past decade, with the country on track to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 – where five percent of fewer smoke.
AVCA says some key tweaks to the 2020 vaping legislation would go a long way in helping to reduce access to minors and ensure smokers keen to switch receive better advice. However, the advocacy group strongly believes tobacco must now be Parliament’s priority.
Likewise, last week ASH urged the Government to keep focused on ‘the death and harm that smoking causes. Smoking remains Aotearoa’s single most preventable cause of premature deaths, killing about 5000 people a year. Not one person has died from vaping in the 15 years it has been available here.’
“Let’s crunch deadly combustible tobacco first and foremost. Let’s also round up any rogue retailers who sell vape products to minors or claim to be specialist vape retailers when they’re far from it,” says Nancy Loucas.