AVCA was formed in 2016 by vapers across New Zealand wanting their voices heard in local and central government. All members are former smokers who promote vaping to help smokers quit. AVCA does not have any affiliation or vested interest in industry - tobacco, pharmaceutical and/or the local vaping manufacturing or retail sectors.
Rather than MPs rushing to regulate vaping in the last few days of this Parliamentary term, says Nancy Loucas, co-director of AVCA, the bill’s many complexities should be debated after the General Election.
The New Zealand parliament will sit for just three more weeks after the July school holidays, then rise in early August for the election campaign. The Leader of the House has already signalled that several bills in progress could be passed under Urgency in the last sitting days.
The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill was reported back by the Health Select Committee on 2 June, but it has since languished on the Order Paper waiting for its second reading. The last thing anyone interested in tobacco harm reduction wants is for this to be rushed through with little genuine consideration to the issues.
Loucas commented: “We’ve been calling for legislation for years, and to think it could now be rushed through under Urgency is completely unacceptable. Sadly, the only winners will be the shareholders of multinational corporations.
“Given time is now short, Parliament should do the right thing and debate the bill after the election. Then MPs will have a fresh mandate and be more focused to deal with the many complex issues the proposed regulation brings.”
AVCA was disappointed the public submission period was shortened by the Minister’s request, then oral submitters had to present via teleconference during the height of lockdown which was already a stressful time for everyone.
“Ever since Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa introduced the bill in late February, vaping advocates, consumers and businesses have been forced to respond in a totally sub-optimal way. Nonetheless, Parliament can now decide to invest the necessary time to get the bill right. It’s too important to be passed in haste.”
She says New Zealand smokers and vapers were let down by a disengaged Health Select Committee which sided with opponents’ emotion not the evidence, changing the bill little.
“As it stands, general and online-only vape retailers will be permitted to sell just three vape flavours – mint, menthol, and tobacco. Adults, however, love flavours. That’s how they successfully switch from cigarettes. By limiting flavours, you’re just limiting the opportunities smokers have to quit tobacco,” said Ms. Loucas.
If the bill is rushed through before the election, with little or no changes made, she believes New Zealand can expect to see smoking rates back on the rise with Smokefree 2025 seriously hindered.
AVCA is also frustrated that its petition to Parliament requesting ‘That the House of Representatives debate the Government’s proposal to limit flavoured nicotine e-liquids to mint, menthol and tobacco’ still awaits Parliament’s response. It was signed by 17,357 people before it closed on 31 March.
Despite the present negativity surrounding vaping in New Zealand, the Vapo chain has announced it is expanding its services with new shops – believing that “adult access to many flavours is key to keeping New Zealand’s smoking rates down”.
The government’s bill might limit general retailers, such as supermarkets, service stations and dairies, to selling just three vape flavours (mint, menthol, and tobacco) – but specialist vape stores, like VAPO, will be able to continue selling the wide range of popular flavours that makes vaping successful for quitters.
“Many smokers used the lockdown to quit tobacco for health reasons and to save money. By sustainably growing the number of VAPO stores, we’re hoping to encourage even more Kiwi smokers to make the switch,” said Jonathan Devery.
“MPs look set to pass a bill which will allow specialist vape stores to sell a wide range of flavours, while the likes of supermarkets can only sell three flavours. We don’t think that’s fair, as accessing vape flavours is key to adults kicking smoking. Hence, we’re more committed than ever to growing the number of specialist VAPO stores,” added business partner Ben Pryor.