“New Zealand’s leading anti-smoking lobby, ASH, is 100% right in its assessment that limiting vaping flavours in general retail is flawed. This now needs to be fixed as unintended consequences are not helping youth vaping nor Smokefree Aotearoa 2025,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
The Tobacco Harm Reduction advocate’s comments follow a submission by ASH (Action for Smokefree 2025) to Parliament’s Health Select Committee on the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill.
ASH writes: ‘Current limits on general retailers to sell only tobacco, mint, and menthol closed vape systems are flawed and harmful. Expanding the range to at least an additional two flavours popular with adults would ensure former smokers, and those quitting had access to flavours that help them with abstinence from smoking.’
Ms Loucas says: “Limiting vape flavours to just three for general retailers like convenience stores, supermarkets, and service stations makes no sense and is simply not working. International evidence shows that adult smokers using fruit and other sweet flavours are 1.6 times more likely to stay smokefree. Banning them in general retail only undermines quit smoking attempts.”
ASH has labeled the current restrictions as ‘counterproductive and in opposition to the evidence’. It has proposed to the Health select committee that two popular fruit flavours also be available in general retail to more accurately reflect the types of product that ex-smokers use to remain smokefree.
“AVCA thinks this would be a good first step, but we would like to see even more popular flavours available to adults desperate to quit smoking. The flavour restrictions are clearly not slowing down youth vaping and are only adding to the number of Specialist Vape Retailers (SVRs) now operating in New Zealand,” she says.
Since the 2020 vaping legislation was passed and subsequent regulations enacted, only licensed SVRs can stock a full range of flavours. Many convenience stores have subsequently separated off part of their premises to be SVRs.
“Like ASH, we agree with the bill’s proposal to require general retailers to notify if they sell any vape products. We would also like to see the regulator getting tougher on the R18 sales rule and prosecute wayward retailers who sell to minors. What’s more, general retailers who make a lame attempt to become a SVR should not be given specialist status – because they’re not vape specialists!
“The dodgy SVRs are a result of the flavour restrictions on general retailers. If those were lifted then it would slow down the growth and issues around new SVRs sprouting up all round the place to circumvent the restrictions,” she says.
With MPs on the select committee now considering public feedback on the smokefree amendment bill before reporting back to the House, AVCA and ASH have both urged the Government to keep focused on the death and harm that smoking causes.
“New Zealand’s smoking rate has halved in the past decade largely thanks to vaping. This is not the time to get tougher on the most effective smoking cessation tool. This is the time to make popular vaping flavours more accessible to Kiwi adults wanting to quit smoking and to crackdown on rogue retailers breaching vaping’s strict R18 status. This is also the time to remind parents that they too have a responsibility.
“Workable regulations, not idealistic ones, is how we will achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025. Let’s crunch tobacco, with sound and sensible adult access to popular vaping products key to more smoking cessation success,” says Nancy Loucas.