Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 is in jeopardy if New Zealand’s Vaping Regulatory Authority (VRA) stands by its new interpretation of its own product standards which would dramatically reduce the maximum ‘nicotine salt’ limit, say smokefree advocates.
“If the VRA continues down this path it not only endangers the country’s smokefree ambition, but it completely u-turns on an agreed standard that will hit 80% of the New Zealand market without any logical explanation or consultation,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
AVCA say for 15 months the VRA has happily approved products as compliant and legal to sell under their own agreed and announced 2021 standards. To now claim that most of those approvals are no longer compliant due to an ill-advised re-interpretation, is not only wrong but inconsistent with global standards.
“The VRA’s latest interpretation would see the maximum nicotine level drop by 50%. All that will do is slow down smokers desperate to quit cigarettes from switching to considerably safer nicotine products. What’s worse, it could lead to ex-smokers returning to the cancer sticks,” says Ms Loucas.
Earlier this month the Government released statistics which show New Zealand’s smoking rate had fallen to an historic low of 8% of adults smoking daily, down from 9.4% a year ago.
AVCA says nicotine vaping has been key to New Zealand’s smoking rates now being half of what they were 10 years ago. However, the VRA’s latest move will slow down the country’s successful track to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 – where five percent or fewer Kiwis smoke regularly.
“As consumer advocates, we just ask that the VRA consults with the importers, local manufacturers, and retailers who have complied to 2021 standards in good faith and without any consumer issues.
“These standards and their original interpretation were put in place last year after considerable evidence-based research and public consultation. For the regulator to now re-interpret those standards is totally unfair for local businesses and would be catastrophic for consumers,” says Ms Loucas.
AVCA says nicotine is not the problem. Rather, it’s combustible cigarettes that lead to about 5,000 Kiwis dying from smoking rated illness each year.
“New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has adopted a Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategy that’s working a treat. Through publicly funded campaigns and programmes, our health providers have transitioned thousands to vaping as an incredibly effective smoking cessation tool. “The VRA must not be allowed to now throw the baby out with the bathwater. We call on Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall to get involved and walk the VRA back to where she originally wanted them,” says Nancy Loucas.