Government Has Enabled The Proliferation Of Store-within-a-store Vape Retailers
To compare the number of Specialist Vape Retailer’s (SVRs) nationwide to McDonald’s and KFC outlets is extremely misleading – McDonald’s and KFC represent only a small subset of the total number of fast-food outlets across New Zealand. To compare a subgroup of the fast-food market with the entire SVR market is not an accurate comparison.
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.
The Vaping Industry Association of New Zealand (VIANZ) acknowledges and supports the need for accessibility to vaping products to be carefully controlled, and VIANZ has repeatedly asked for stronger steps to be taken by Government to protect our rangatahi.
We have expressed concern over the continued lack of enforcement by authorities who appear to have ‘bulk issued’ licences and are allowing the ‘store-within-a-store’ model to proliferate. It is plain for all to see that licences are being 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.
Observations by VIANZ members, supported by complaints from multiple community groups and the public, suggest that the Government’s Vaping Regulatory Authority (VRA) is not enforcing the regulations as was intended when issuing licences. Additionally, the current penalties for breaches of the regulations are not adequate enough to act as a deterrent. VIANZ has been asking authorities to introduce far heavier penalties (e.g., $10,000) for businesses that sell to minors and aren’t adhering to the regulations.
The vaping industry pays in excess of an estimated $3 million each year in fees and licences to enable Government to manage and enforce the regulations. VIANZ is questioning the apparent lack of resources within the VRA, as the funds collected from industry should be more than sufficient to enable authorities to undertake the relevant checks to ensure retailer compliance with the regulations. Concerningly, we understand very few retailer checks are being undertaken.
New Zealand’s sharp decline in smoking numbers is celebrated internationally and we are held up as an example of how evidence-based vaping legislation can support public health outcomes. Our legislation promotes equitable access to vaping products which has undoubtably contributed to smoking rates decreasing from 14.1% in 2017 to the current 8% we see in 2023. Health experts continue to remind us that 5,000 Kiwis lose their lives to tobacco-related illnesses each year, so the war against tobacco is far from over.