New Zealand Has Just Published Its Updated Vape Regulations

Following a consultation which took place between January and March 2023, further vape regulations have been released as part of the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Regulations 2023.

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Bill aims to make tobacco products less appealing and accessible to minors and non smokers. On the other hand it seeks to keep safer nicotine alternatives such as vapes, available for smoking adults seeking to use them
The first reading of the bill took place in parliament in July 2022, after which it was passed to the Health Select Committee for submissions and review. The submission period on the bill closed in August 2022, giving way to a consultation period which took place earlier this year. The resulting amendments were published last week and a timeline of how these regulations will be phased into effect has been made available on the Ministry of Health website.

Among the amendments is a regulation stipulating that New Specialist Vape Retailers (SVR) stores must be at least 300 metres away from schools and marae, which are local communal and spiritual spaces. With regards vaping products, they will now be only allowed in packaging with generic flavour descriptions and they must have removable batteries and child-safety mechanisms. Moreover, the nicotine limit allowed in disposable vapes has been reduced to 20mg/mL.

In addition to the above measures, the Ministry of Health has launched a health promotion programme Protect Your Breath (PYB) on social media and other platforms. The campaign is targeted towards young people, and encourages them to refrain from vaping.

Enforcement of retail regulations
Meanwhile, data provided by the Official Information Act has indicated that since the restrictions on vape retailing went into effect last year, less than 100 infringement notices have been issued to vape retailers. These amounted to a total of $42,900 in fines.

In fact, Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA) co-founder, Nancy Loucas, has previously highlighted that while she agrees with the overall aim of the vape bill, she is concerned about the lack of enforcement by general convenience shops which close part of their shops to sell the products.

“Making new regulations without consistent and effective enforcement is an exercise in futility. There will be push back from some convenience store operators who have already shown by selling vaping products to minors that they are more concerned with revenue than the public good,” said Loucas.

What do local data tell us about vaping?
In other news, following a surge in anti-vaping media coverage, Loucas said that the nation is at risk of not achieving its Smokefree 2025 goal if vaping keeps being demonized. “New Zealand is at risk of not achieving its decade long Smokefree 2025 ambition if commentators continue to demonise the most effective quit-smoking tool we have right now,” said Loucas. Some of the media headlines she is referring to have compared vaping to smoking, rather than portraying vaping as a safer alternative.

In contrast, data have shown that New Zealand’s smoking rates have dropped in parallel with an increase in vaping. More specifically, smoking rates have gone from 18% in 2006/07, to 11.9% in the 2019-2020 survey, 9.4% in 2020/21 and a historic low 8% in 2022. Another contributor to this drop in smoking rates is believed to be the use of harm reduction strategies set in place by local authorities, which include the use of other safer nicotine alternatives.

Moreover, the overall daily smoking rate for Māori who are known to have higher smoking rates than the national average, is at a low of 19.9%, down from 22.3% in 2020/21. The AVCA had commended the Government for ensuring stop smoking services are more accessible and introducing tailored Māori and Pacific services.