Concerns raised in the vaping industry about shop security could become a wider reality if proposed regulations add more cost and scarcity to vaping products, says a leading Kiwi tobacco harm reduction advocate.
The Ministry of Health is currently reviewing 2,518 submissions on its draft vaping regulations. However, with some vape shops recently experiencing violent smash and grabs, there’s concern further heavy-handed industry regulation will make matters worse.
“Vaping consumers support regulation and high product safety standards. However, under the proposed regulations, vape manufacturers and retailers will be hit hard with many compliance costs. That will only make vape products more expensive and increasingly sought-after by criminals,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
Further, the Ministry’s plan to remove all but three vape flavours from general retail, effective from 11 August, will alarmingly add scarcity into the mix. Registered specialist vape stores will be targeted by burglars and shoplifters as they’ll be only ones permitted to stock and sell a wide range of vape flavours.
“Over time, burglaries may impact vapers access to flavours and equipment as some vape shop owners will possibly bow out of the market fearing safety concerns,” she says.
Ms Loucas says while general retail such as supermarkets, service stations and convenience stores will be limited to just three flavours – mint, menthol, and tobacco – strong demand for popular fruit and dessert vape flavours will remain.
“Most adults have successfully switched using fruit and dessert flavours and they enjoy them. That’s how so many have successfully quit smoking cigarettes.
“If the Ministry makes these flavours harder to find, sadly some Kiwis will head underground – obtaining unregulated or illegally-sourced products which would be a terrible public policy outcome,” she says.
Ms Loucas says there remains two key opportunities for change: The Ministry of Health will finalise the regulations, and Cabinet will approve them by the end of June.
“Given recently publicised vape shop break-ins, the Ministry has confirmed it could make changes to the regulations if necessary. Even if it doesn’t, Cabinet could make its own amends to support consumers, businesses, and ultimately New Zealand’s smokefree ambition,” she says.
AVCA will continue to call on Health Minister Andrew Little, Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall, Minister of Small Business Stuart Nash, and Maori Health Minister Peeni Henare to closely scrutinise the Ministry’s vaping regulations, and their impacts, before signing them off.
AVCA was formed in 2016 by vapers across New Zealand wanting their voices heard in local and central government. All members are former smokers who promote vaping to help smokers quit – a much less harmful alternative to combustible tobacco products. AVCA does not have any affiliation or vested interest in industry – tobacco, pharmaceutical and/or the local vaping manufacturing or retail sectors.