The Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA ) is encouraging Kiwis to make a submission on the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill by 24 August. They say getting tough on tobacco is well overdue.
Now with Parliament’s health select committee, the 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.
AVCA co-founder, Nancy Loucas, agrees with the overall intent of the bill to help New Zealand achieve smokefree. She has concerns, however, about convenience stop owners flouting the law as has been seen in pockets since the 2020 vaping regulations and restrictions.
“ Making new regulations without consistent and effective enforcement is an exercise in futility. There will be push back from some convenience store operators who have already shown by selling vaping products to minors that they are more concerned with revenue than the public good,” says Ms Loucas.
In Budget 2021 the Government boosted funding for health promotion programmes and to scale up stop-smoking services. Budget 2022 then saw additional funding to establish a tobacco products regulator and support the implementation of the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan.
“Vaping is saving thousands of Kiwi adult smokers’ lives, but it gets a lot of negative media coverage because too many minors are still getting their hands on vaping products. Those born in 2009 or after are fast becoming teenagers. Subsequently, many will try to access cigarettes and the sanctions to retailers who sell to them must be high, with stings regular and well resourced,” she says.
AVCA says it supports in principle creating a smokefree generation but is concerned around the legalities of restricting one consumer product to a cohort of Kiwis once they’ve reach adulthood. The move could also fuel an already existing black market and only entice more youth to rebel.
Ms Loucas says while supportive in principle, very low nicotine cigarettes could also be a human rights violation with AVCA strongly believing all adults have the right to make informed choices. The move too could see people heading to the black market or growing their own tobacco.
“The Government needs to make sure the smokefree generation move holds up legally. Very low nicotine cigarettes should also be phased in over say five years. Yes to limiting and registering tobacco retailers. If they are then caught selling to minors, they should lose their licence forthwith. No ifs, not buts, no maybes. We will only beat youth smoking and reach Smokefree 2025 if this new tougher tobacco regime is rigorously enforced,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA says since the vaping regulations took effect, Kiwi smokers have continued to access every tobacco brand under the sun in thousands of outlets, while popular adult vape flavours have been limited to just three in general retail. The latest bill, it believes, will help level the playing field, giving smokers more motivation and ease the switch to safer nicotine products.
“I’m pleased the Government is set to roll out a new quit-smoking campaign later this year and we’re delighted that vaping continues to be a key tool in official smoking cessation messaging and programmes. Crunching tobacco access and appeal is now well overdue,” says Nancy Loucas.
To read more about the smokefree amendment bill and to make a submission by 24 August, visit https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_125245/smokefree-environments-and-regulated-products-smoked-tobacco