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Government Deals Further Blow To New Zealand Small Businesses

Retailers upset by the Government’s blinkered restrictions on vaping products say they feel shut out and ignored given the outcome of the select committee process.

New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores (NZACS) Executive Director, Dave Hooker, says the ban on vaping flavours other than tobacco, mint and menthol for convenience stores, dairies and petrol stations is punitive, anti-competitive, and not the New Zealand way.

Over 1000 submissions were presented to the Health Select Committee, which reported its recommendations on the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill on 2nd June[1].

“The Health Select Committee appears happy to ignore the pleas of thousands of small businesses and leading public health experts such as ASH and End Smoking New Zealand[2], so it’s time for the Government to intervene now before it risks shutting down these small business retailers and impacting New Zealand’s best chance at a Smokefree 2025.

“After years of being told that retailers need to play their part in achieving a Smokefree Aotearoa, and if they don’t like being robbed to just “stop selling cigarettes”, vaping products finally present an acceptable alternative for them to diversify away from relying on tobacco, while also helping smokers switch to a significantly less harmful product,” Mr Hooker says.

“It makes no sense that retailers of tobacco will no longer be able to successfully convert smokers to vaping, and worse, small towns and provincial communities without access to specialist vaping stores will lose access to vaping flavours entirely, which risks losing people back to cigarettes,” he says.

Research conducted by UMR[3] in March 2020 showed what is at risk:

· 40% of current vapers first made the conscious decision to switch from tobacco in a non-specialist store – through a dairy, convenience store, petrol station, or supermarket.

· 55% of adult vapers ongoing, regular purchases are also in non-specialist vape stores

· 66% of adult vapers say it is important to be able to access flavours other than tobacco, mint or menthol in non-specialist stores such as convenience, dairies and supermarkets.

“With flavours being pulled from these small businesses, a sample of over 600 stores shows a revenue loss per store of over $16,000 per year, in what should be a category that supports smokers wanting to switch to these less harmful alternatives.

“Instead, this unnecessary ban on vaping flavours, which for convenience stores consist mainly of vanilla, berry and mango will deal a devastating blow in excess of a 40% loss of sales. This will hit small business owners in the pocket, impact their viability to remain open, and comes at the worst possible time straight off the back of the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Rather than banning flavours now, this Government should demonstrate its support for small business and give us a chance to trade responsibly and comply with this new legislation which, rightly, prohibits the sale and supply of vaping products to minors, before taking away our ability to trade and compete with specialist vaping stores.

“Should there be any non-compliance with the law or selling to minors, only then should there be some identified flavours removed from that retailer as a punitive measure – rather than stripping all retailers right to trade and compete from the outset. A measure imposed without any justification.

“We urge the Government to do the right thing and support small businesses by fixing this Vaping Amendment Bill to allow for ‘general retailers’ to sell additional flavours as soon as possible.”

 

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