“There are far too many convenience stores now also operating as licenced ‘Specialist Vape Retailers’. It makes a mockery of New Zealand’s vaping laws and so we’re pleased the Government is going to tidy up this unintended consequence,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
Her comments follow Parliament’s first reading of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill, with submissions to the Health Select Committee closing on 24 August.
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 three flavours – mint, menthol, and tobacco. Many convenience stores have subsequently separated off part of their premises and registered that space as a SVR.
Ms Loucas: “There is no reason anyone should have a plywood box in their convenience store and be licenced as a Specialist Vape Retailer. It’s illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be in a SVR, so how come this ‘hybrid’ has become rather rampant all over Aotearoa?”
Not only has this practice seen the number of SVRs in New Zealand soar over the past two years, but it has contributed to the illegal selling of vaping products to minors which AVCA has called on the authorities to get tough on. These supposed SVRs are also not manned by trained vape retailers.
“I’ve entered one of these ‘hybrid’ places and asked simple questions, but they were unable to assist. Questions like ‘what is the difference between 30mg and 50mg’ and ‘what is the best system for me to use if I smoke two packs of Holiday per day?’ They had no idea. They are not equipped to handle helping people switch to safer nicotine products at all,” she says.
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.
It also proposes that general retailers, such as convenience stores, must now also notify the Director-General of Health that they are selling or distributing vape products.
What’s more, approval to become a SVR will only be given if the retail premise seeking a licence is a fixed permanent structure, is appropriate to operate as a stand-alone business, and 70% of its total sales are vaping products – or 60% if the lower threshold criteria is strictly met.
“Despite being key to New Zealand’s smoking rate halving within a decade and saving thousands of lives, vaping continues to get plenty of negative media coverage. Tidying up the 2020 vaping legislation will help reduce access to minors and ensure smokers keen to switch receive better advice,” says Nancy Loucas.
AVCA is encouraging those who support the proposed smokefree and vaping changes to make a submission by 24 August, via https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_125245/smokefree-environments-and-regulated-products-smoked-tobacco