Today – 11 August – marks the first day that New Zealand general retailers cannot sell a wide range of vape flavours. One industry leader says the move will sadly result in more cigarette sales – hampering Smokefree Aotearoa but boosting the Government’s rapidly diminishing tobacco tax take.
General retailers include service stations, supermarkets and convenance stores. As part of the vaping legislation Parliament passed last year, general retailers are now only permitted to sell three vape flavours: Menthol, mint, and tobacco.
“It’s crazy that Kiwis desperate to quit cigarettes can walk into a service station and buy any cigarette brand under the sun. They can’t, however, access the most popular vapes flavours. It makes no sense when vaping has been proven to be 95% less harmful than smoking,” says Jonathan Devery – co-owner of the largest Kiwi-owned vape companies, Alt New Zealand and VAPO.
He says the regulatory change will make it less likely for Kiwi smokers to make the safer switch, opting for the more readily available cigarettes instead.
Both ex-smokers, Mr Devery and fellow business partner Ben Pryor believe the Government needs to monitor this new restriction like a hawk to ensure it’s not hampering its Smokefree Aotearoa reboot.
“The latest service station industry data shows that tobacco sales – both in terms of volume and value – have been falling like a stone. It’s only because safer nicotine alternatives like ours have been on a rapid ascent. After achieving record low smoking rates, a return to cigarette smoking would be an absolute disaster,” says Mr Devery.
Leading the charge against smoking and Big Tobacco, the independent New Zealand vape business has catapulted in the past two years to becoming one of the largest suppliers – of all products supplied – to the country’s service stations.
“Tobacco tax takings have been completely walloped by vaping, as Budget 2021 showed. It’s then a very interesting time to eliminate 70% of vaping products from the same general retail outlets that have traditionally been a cash cow for tobacco revenue,” says Mr Devery.
The entrepreneurs believe it’s well overdue for the Government to get tougher on Big Tobacco via its soon to be released smokefree action plan. As it stands, less harmful vaping remains more heavily regulated.
Unlike cigarette retailers, specialist vape stores have to be registered, enabling them to sell a wide range of flavours. With fewer dedicated vape stores in the likes of rural areas, Alt and VAPO’s owners believe many Kiwis trying to reduce or quit their cigarette habit will only find it harder.
“Adults love flavours. They are key to successfully quitting cigarettes! Banning the most popular vape flavours like dessert and fruit variations in New Zealand’s highest traffic retail outlets, but leaving cigarette availability alone, makes no sense. Unless the Government is after a tobacco tax boost, it now needs to hit access to tobacco, and hard!”
“We eagerly await the Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall’s finalised Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan. If New Zealand is to ever achieve smokefree, the balance must be tilted in favour of safer nicotine alternatives,” says Jonathan Devery.