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New Research From Canterbury University Confirms Industry Concerns

New Zealand's vaping industry association, VIANZ, is not surprised to see research from the University of Canterbury has found vaping stores have proliferated, particularly in low socio-economic communities.

"Specialist vape retailers (SVRs) were created specifically to provide expert knowledge to assist smokers with choosing the right product to help them quit smoking,” says Jonathan Devery, VIANZ Chair. 

“Customers benefit from trained retail staff’s in-depth understanding of the different devices, e-liquids and accessories ensuring customers are given accurate information, advice and support in a tightly controlled R18 environment that is tailored to their specific needs.”

According to Devery, a regulatory loophole, facilitated by an ongoing lack of enforcement by authorities, has led to genuine SVRs being forced out of business thanks to the rapid increase in store-within-a-store operators who have lower overheads.

“Frankly communities have been inundated with dodgy pop-up stores that are peddling cheap, low-quality products that are unlikely to have undergone any kind of legitimate testing,” says Devery. “Consumers are being exposed to products that do not adhere to the legislation in terms of nicotine levels and ingredients and it is highly concerning. It's no coincidence that the growth in these types of stores has correlated to a rise in youth vaping. School principals routinely report that these are the stores responsible for selling to students and despite pleas to authorities to act, movement has been slow.”

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New Zealand has over 8,000 tobacco retailers nationwide, this means if we are to successfully stamp out smoking, vaping needs to be available in every location that tobacco is sold. Accessibility is even more important for communities where the health and financial burden from tobacco is higher (e.g., in Māori and Pacific peoples). For vaping to remain an effective smoking cessation tool it needs to be as accessible as tobacco.

VIANZ acknowledges and supports the need for accessibility to vaping products to be carefully controlled and has repeatedly asked for stronger steps to be taken by Government to protect our youth. VIANZ is pleased to note recent announcements by Minister Costello appear to be taking on board some of the industry's suggestions, but more clearly needs to be done in regard to stores that are operating outside the intention of the Act.

"We have expressed concern that under the previous Government the ‘store-within-a-store’ model has been allowed to proliferate," says Devery. "It is plain for all to see that licences have been granted to retailers that are clearly operating outside what was intended by the Act. The regulations state that assessment of a Specialist Vape Retailer (SVR) application must give consideration to staff being present at all times to ensure under-18s are not permitted entry, the Approved Vaping Premise (AVP) must be its own permanent structure, and the primary purpose of the AVP must be to sell vaping products only."

“We have a good regulatory framework here in New Zealand, but its time authorities stepped up and closed some of the loopholes that are allowing some retailers to circumvent the rules. If the store-within-a-store model was not allowed to exist, we would see an immediate drop in store numbers and youth vaping rates. It would remove the core channel that is actively pushing low quality non-compliant products onto consumers. Removing this channel would contribute to lifting the industry back up to a more satisfactory level where stores are abiding by the regulations and selling products consumers can have complete confidence in," concludes Devery.

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