Government Rolling Out The Red Tape For Small Kiwi Vaping Industry
The Government’s proposed sweeping changes to vaping laws will see an average vape shop facing costs in excess of $30,000 per store when forced to make ridiculous changes to things like trademarks and retrofitting store layouts.
As the Government continues to rush its lazy, ill-considered vaping amendment Bill through Parliament this week, small businesses in the vaping industry are wondering where they fit within the Governments ‘kind’ approach to economic recovery.
Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand (VTANZ) President, Lawrence Coe, says the industry and many leading lights of public health have been advocating for years for common-sense regulation such as product standards, R18 sales & supply measures, and controls around marketing activity.
“Instead, the Government has lazily coopted existing tobacco laws which apply sweeping prohibitions and a nightmare of red tape on an industry trying to help New Zealand’s 550,000 smokers to quit cigarettes.
“This is a hit on small businesses at a time when they can least incur this cost.”
The legislation will force the entire vaping industry to either rebrand stores, rebrand products, or change company names, at massive financial cost for many small owner-operator businesses – in order to comply with an antiquated piece of law designed for the tobacco industry.
“In a further mind-boggling piece of drafting, we also face the prospect of having to write-off tens of thousands of dollars of stock if the ‘trademark’ is the same as our store or company name.
The problem is that there is no exemption for ‘vaping product trademarks’, compared to ‘regulated product (tobacco) trademarks anywhere in the Bill.
The industry accepts there will be fees and costs associated with administering a new product notification, recall and safety regime for example. But this Bill goes well beyond this.
In New Zealand, there are still 550,000 smokers, with 200,000 of those now having moved completely or transitioning to vaping. A recent study of 17,929 smokers demonstrated that vaping is 2x more effective than NRT, and vaping flavours are 2.5x more effective than tobacco flavours at helping smokers quit1.
Vaping is a disruptive technology with the potential to displace smoking world-wide. Yet the Government is pulling the rug out through sweeping restrictions on specialists, and a flavour ban on ‘generic’ retailers.
The local industry is made up of 200 specialist vape shops and market size of $300m in 2019-20. That is money no longer being spent on tobacco.
“The way this vaping legislation has been talked about is some kind of ‘status quo’ nirvana for specialist vape retailers who are responsible business people, versus the severe (and unnecessary) restrictions on ‘general retailers’ like a corner dairy who will, sadly, be prohibited from selling flavours.
“What the Bill achieves in reality is a wholesale prohibition on any form of advertising or communication about vaping products, despite the Attorney-General BORA report ruling this to have no basis in any evidence whatsoever.
“If passed in its current form, this Bill would create a bizarre vacuum of time where retailers who currently recommend and provide advice to smokers are completely prohibited from doing so, until the subsequent Regulations appear months later.
“The Ministry of Health promised consultation on the proposed regulations over a year ago. But this hasn’t occurred. Instead we are now faced with over-regulation, which will cost lives and livelihoods.
With the Bill’s second reading due this week, the New Zealand vaping industry is urging Parliament to make much needed amendments to fix the Bill as soon as possible or send it back to the drawing board for a complete rewrite with proper industry consultation.
“We have a number of changes we would like to see made to the Bill, and would welcome the opportunity to discuss these with any willing Member of Parliament who wishes to support small business, support smokers quitting, and support our industry,” Coe says.