Revelations that cigarette sales are falling faster than ever, with vaping a major factor, is again raising concerns that the Government’s move to restrict vaping flavours and potentially cap nicotine levels in vaping products will only slow such success
The End Smoking NZ charity has analysed tobacco company returns published by the Ministry of Health, showing 2,132 million cigarettes were sold last year in New Zealand – 410 million fewer than just two years ago.
The charity has concluded that converting more smokers to reduced-harm products, such as vaping, would deliver a much better outcome. However, the largest Kiwi-owned vape company, Alt New Zealand, says that is going to be harder to achieve thanks to the vaping legislation Parliament passed earlier this month.
“This rapid decline in cigarette sales shows vaping products are clearly working, however the Government’s over regulation of flavours will mean cigarette sales are set to get a boost,” says co-owner of Alt New Zealand and VAPO, Jonathan Devery.
“No wonder tobacco companies are welcoming the flavour restrictions as they will simply help preserve traditional tobacco’s longevity.”
From August next year, general retailers such as supermarkets, service stations and dairies will only be able to sell three vape flavours – mint, menthol and tobacco. As the Ministry of Health now firms up many new regulatory details for vaping, there is growing concern that nicotine caps may also be introduced into general retail, as has happened in Canada.
“The success of vaping, and the huge dent it has made on cigarette sales, is due to the accessibility and appeal of vaping to adult smokers. Adults love flavours, and those successfully transitioning from cigarettes to vaping need comparable nicotine. If you tighten the screws on both, you are simply making it harder for Kiwis to quit smoking and that’s a very poor public health outcome,” says co-owner of Alt New Zealand and VAPO, Ben Pryor.
The leading vaping entrepreneurs say the new vaping legislation does well to sanction tough R18 controls and ensure high levels of product safety, however the move to restrict flavours defies all evidence and instead follows emotion.
“Earlier this year an extensive ASH study revealed very low levels of vaping among our mid-teenagers, with University of Auckland academics and even Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa declaring there is no youth vaping epidemic in New Zealand. Yet flavours will be restricted in some misguided attempt to fix something that’s not even a reality. Alarmingly all it does is play into the hands of Big Tobacco,” says Devery.
He says the low uptake of vaping by minors reflects the success of the industry’s self-enforced R18 accessibility controls such as R18 courier bags used for online ordering – where couriers must sight ID before handing packages over. This policy is now mandatory for all national courier companies to enforce when delivering vaping products.
Alt New Zealand is now calling on the Government to honour its commitment to work with the local vaping industry to ensure the final regulations ultimately help deliver a drop in cigarette sales going forward.