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Asia’s Leading E-cigarette Brand Proposes Measures To Prevent New Zealand Minors From Vaping

In spite of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, the New Zealand Parliament’s Health Select Committee is continuing to progress its mandate to regulate vaping and prevent young people from using vaping products. RELX Technology, Asia’s leading independent e-cigarette brand, together with its New Zealand partner, Mission Limited, were invited to speak via video-conference as the Health Committee deliberates on the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill, in line with the country’s Smokefree 2025 plan. RELX and Mission Limited had previously also provided a written submission.

RELX Director for External Affairs Jonathan Ng and Mission Limited Founder Jing Zhang in their evidence to the Committee on Wednesday 8 April acknowledged the widespread societal concerns about a youth uptake of vaping products in New Zealand. Mr. Ng detailed measures RELX has proactively taken to ensure its products and marketing material are not targeted at minors. These include a child lock function in its Bluetooth-enabled RELX i product to prevent minors from vaping. The RELX i is locked when purchased, and users must complete an age verification process before they can start to use the device. When connected, the user can also lock the device remotely via the app to prevent unauthorized use.

In the absence of regulation, RELX has voluntarily included a Health Warning on all product packaging and marketing material. In accordance with RELX’s Guardian Program, all of the company’s retail partners are reminded of the importance of checking IDs. Provisions in its contracts with branded RELX stores allow the company to terminate the partnerships with stores found to have sold to minors.

Noting that Mission Limited has converted over 15,000 adult Kiwi smokers to RELX products in the past year alone, RELX informed the Health Committee that 85% of its sales in New Zealand -- including its top 2 best-selling flavours -- are not tobacco, mint or menthol. Additionally, to address concerns that fruit or dessert names might be particularly attractive to youth, RELX has taken the industry-leading decision to give its products neutral names like Fresh Red and Mellow Yellow since the start of this year. Retailers are trained to explain to their consumers what the flavours are, only after age verification is conducted.

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill, introduced to Parliament by Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa on February 24, 2020 aims to regulate vaping and vaping products under the Smokefree Environments Act 1990. It seeks to address the health and accessibility concerns around vaping and smokeless tobacco products whilst acknowledging that these products are less harmful than smoking. The Bill prohibits sales of vaping products and smokeless tobacco devices to under-18s; advertising and sponsorship of vaping products and smokeless tobacco devices; and vaping and using smokeless tobacco devices in indoor workplaces, early childhood centres and schools. Under this Bill, specialist vape stores will also have no restrictions on the flavours they may sell compared with generic stores, which may sell only tobacco, mint and menthol flavoured products.

The Health Select Committee, chaired by Labour Party MP Louisa Wall, called for public submissions on the Bill on 12 March, with the closing date for written submissions on 1 April. Since then, the Committee has continued to hear oral submissions via video-conference, and has heard from a range of stakeholder groups including retailer and consumer associations, public health groups and manufacturers.

The report of the Health Select Committee’s consultation is expected to be completed by 2 June. To watch RELX and Mission Limited’s joint submission, visit https://www.facebook.com/hescnz/videos/2651266441776316

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