VAPO and Alt New Zealand co-owners, Ben Pryor and Jonathan Devery, say it’s critical Kiwis now submit feedback on the proposals, with public consultation closing on 15 March.
“Sure, we have some concerns,” says Devery, “but overall, the Ministry is heading in a positive and pragmatic direction. As market leaders, we appreciate their willingness to listen and their genuine openness to communicate.”
The Kiwi vape entrepreneurs say they have always supported regulation, the sanctioning of R18, and the introduction of product safety standards. However, they believe, the Ministry of Health’s proposed fee structure will make it difficult for the local industry to continue to afford operating.
They add that it would be a mistake to regulate vaping and smoking along the same lines, as vaping has proven to be the world’s most effective smoking cessation tool.
“The initial fee structure has underestimated the amount of SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) vape stores sell,” Mr Devery continued. “The fees will need to be reduced to make the scheme feasible for companies, and to deliver the Ministry of Health’s goal of meeting their costs to implement the new regulations without unduly profiting from the industry.
“We appreciate the proposal to give the industry nine months to implement product packaging changes, and we’re hoping the Ministry is equally reasonable on other regulatory timeframes.
“Unlike Big Tobacco selling vaping products here, local manufacturers and brands like ours are just not geared up to make quick changes. It’s important Kiwi-made vape products remain competitive, otherwise Big Tobacco wins with all their revenue exported overseas.”
VAPO and Alt New Zealand are concerned about the proposal to ban sweeteners in e-liquids, saying almost all vapes have it in their base concentrates, and there’s no scientific basis to blanket ban all sweeteners. Flavour limits also continue to irk them.
“Our collective goal is to convert smokers to harm reduced alternatives. In order to achieve this, vaping products must be given an equal or more advantaged playing field. The Ministry of Health states that up to 10% of cigarettes contain sweetening agents designed to increase their palatability. How can vaping products compete in the smoking market when such key flavouring components are restricted?
“We don’t support the flavour limits for general retailers, such as supermarkets and service stations, that are set to take effect in August. Flavours are key in getting adults to successfully quit smoking, and as has been well established, there is no youth vaping epidemic in New Zealand.
“’Yes’ to tough sanctions for anyone caught selling vaping products to under 18 year olds, but no to making vaping less appealing or accessible to adult smokers desperate to get off cigarettes,” says Jonathan Devery.
VAPO and Alt New Zealand will offer specific feedback on the draft regulations before 15 March, and is encouraging consumers, smokefree champions, and others in the industry to do the same.