Late last night Parliament rushed to pass the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill before rising today for the General Election.
This follows AVCA voicing its earlier disappointment that the public submission period was shortened on Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa’s request. Oral submitters then had to present via teleconference during the stressful lockdown period to a disengaged Health Select Committee.
“New Zealand has missed its best opportunity to get as close as possible to Smokefree 2025, with the vaping legislation sadly falling well short,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of AVCA.
“This has been a poor process from beginning to end with vaping advocates, consumers and businesses forced to respond in a totally sub-optimal way. It didn’t have to be like this. This legislation could’ve been so much better and would’ve saved more lives from deadly combustible tobacco, but sadly the political blinkers were on,” she says.
Ms Loucas says the fact the Minister had to push through her own last-minute amendments was proof of the Government’s hurried and incomplete work.
AVCA is also disappointed MP Nicky Wagner’s amendment to legalise oral tobacco-free nicotine pouches wasn’t supported when they help thousands of Kiwis to quit and keep off smoking with no adverse health problems.
“Then there’s our parliamentary petition that 17,357 people signed nearly six months ago. It obviously counted for nothing and we’re still awaiting Parliament’s response!”
AVCA’s petition to Parliament requested ‘That the House of Representatives debate the Government’s proposal to limit flavoured nicotine e-liquids to mint, menthol and tobacco’.
“Now in law, general and online-only vape retailers will soon only be allowed to sell just three vape flavours. Adults, however, love flavours - that’s how they successfully switch from cigarettes, but our politicians weren’t listening.
“Parliament unfortunately sided with the opponents’ emotion not the evidence. Let’s just hope New Zealand’s record-low smoking rate doesn’t start rising. MPs have been warned,” says Nancy Loucas.
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 - a much less harmful alternative to combustible tobacco products. AVCA does not have any affiliation or vested interest in industry - tobacco, pharmaceutical and/or the local vaping manufacturing or retail sectors.
Trade body VTANZ also joined in the condemnation of the bill and also demanded the Government to turn its attention to across the Tasman and support their fellow ANZACs to lower their higher smoking rates.
“We now want our New Zealand MPs to positively encourage the Australian Federal Government to follow suit and legalise and regulate vaping. Our Government needs to also raise its concerns over Australia’s decision to ban the importation of all e-cigarette products containing nicotine from 1 January 2021. Such a move will not only cost Australian lives, as more stick to smoking, but it will cost New Zealand jobs,” says Mr Devery.
Jonathan Devery, spokesperson of the Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand (VTANZ), says vaping has been key to New Zealand achieving record-low smoking rates, and despite the latest legislation’s shortcomings, the country must stay laser focused on its smokefree ambition.
He says despite the bill passing, it’s disappointing so much uncertainty around the regulations remains for local businesses. The representative body says it’s essential the industry now has the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Health to provide expert input on the regulations.
Mr Devery says the process around such a key piece of legislation has been flawed since day one. He is now calling on Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa to provide clarity to the Kiwi vape industry on complex regulatory detail, give assurance the industry will be closely consulted, and implementation timelines will be workable.
“We’ve been calling for regulation for over five years so it’s deeply disappointed that it ended up being rushed through before the election. That follows the public submission period being shortened and oral submitters having to present to the Health Select Committee via teleconference,” he says.
Mr Devery says the industry wholeheartedly supports Parliament strictly enforcing vaping as an R18 activity and introducing product safety standards.
However, parts of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act won’t help New Zealand reduce its smoking rates.
“Limiting vape flavours to just three in general retail, such as supermarkets, service stations and convenience stores, will hinder our smokefree progress. Banning all vape advertising too will see fewer Kiwi smokers encouraged to make the switch,” he says.