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Illegal High Nicotine Products Remain On Shelf Thanks To Little Enforcement From Authorities

The Vaping Industry Association of New Zealand, VIANZ, is unsurprised new research from the University of Otago has found retailers selling high-nicotine vaping products that do not comply with the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Regulations 2020 (regulations).

"We hear crickets chirping in response to our regular reports to the Vaping Regulatory Authority (VRA) of non-compliant products and retailers," says Jonathan Devery, Chair, VIANZ.

In August 2023, after the Ministry of Health admitted that it had misinterpreted the regulations as prescribing a maximum nicotine strength of 28.5mg/mL, rather than the actual 50mg/mL, and had unlawfully threatened industry participants who had interpreted the regulations correctly, VIANZ warned the VRA that, unless clear communications were sent to industry, confusion would reign and the market would become littered with non-compliant products.

"VIANZ cautioned the previous government that this would happen," says Devery. "We advised that confusion had been created by the Ministry's unlawful threats, but thanks to an ongoing refusal by the Ministry to publicly recognise its failings and issue communications to industry correcting and clarifying the change to the nicotine strength of vaping products this issue remains and is growing."

Industry has been calling for stronger enforcement for years. It is positive that the Coalition Government appears to be taking our concerns more seriously and has increased fines to a level that should act as a deterrent, but regulations without enforcement are meaningless.

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"It is clear to us the VRA is not up for the job. It appears overwhelmed and is failing to take action on obvious retail breaches," says Devery. "For legitimate retailers who are adhering to the regulations it is extremely frustrating, and we are concerned that if the Government doesn't get a handle on this soon the black market, which up till now has been negligible, will run away from us, much as we have seen in Australia. It would be a crying shame to see the years of strong regulation and progress wasted by inaction around enforcement."

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