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Let’s Catch More Ratbag Vape Retailers

It’s great news that ratbag retailers are getting slapped with fines for selling vapes to minors. We just need to see more of it. Enforcement and parental responsibility are key to attacking youth vaping,” says Nancy Loucas, co-founder of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).

Nancy Loucas

Her comments follow news that the regulators are getting tougher, with Te Whatu Ora National Public Health Service recently running controlled purchase operations on 39 retailers in Canterbury in recent months.

Seven of the retailers failed to ask for identification and sold vape products to a 16-year-old. This is in breach of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act 2020. If they breach the rules three times, they could face prosecution.

All year AVCA has continually called for rogue dairy owners who sell vapes to minors to have the book thrown at them, saying the Government’s ‘education’ period has long expired.

“Dare I say, it’s mostly convenience stores that are getting infringement notices and fines. The other problem is too many of them have been allowed to partition off part of their shops to become Specialist Vape Retailers, enabling them to sell a full range of flavours. This matter needs greater oversight and re-assessment from the regulator because frankly they’re not specialists,” says Ms Loucas.

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Since 2020 only licenced SVRs can stock all flavours. General retailers such as convenience stores are limited to selling just mint, menthol, and tobacco flavours.

“Restricting flavours in general retail has had a huge unintended consequence on the ground. It’s simply led to greater numbers of bad vape retailers. The best way to fix this is to allow more flavours into general retail as ASH is calling for, while getting tough on R18 enforcement,” she says.

AVCA says thanks to vaping, New Zealand is on track to achieve Smokefree 2025 – where five percent or fewer smoke. Another boost to the decade-long national goal will be The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill. Parliament’s health select committee is due to report back on it by 1 December.

Reiterating the importance of providing access to safer nicotine products for Kiwi adults, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall recently said: ‘We need to continue supporting people who smoke tobacco to successfully switch to less harmful products.’

“New Zealand is showing the world how to achieve smokefree. You crush the access and appeal of deadly cigarettes, while adopting a Tobacco Harm Reduction approach to ensure a safer and viable nicotine alternative is readily available for adults,” says Nancy Loucas.

The Fifth Asia Harm Reduction Forum took place on 28 October in the Philippines. The forum’s footage is now available on the AHRF 2022 YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o1hXi4aAak

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