Proposed Government regulations to control the sales of vaping products may not go far enough to protect Kiwis wanting to quit smoking according to an industry leader.
While thousands of New Zealanders have used their time in lockdown to quit smoking and are seeking out alternatives, there is concern many products on the international market are simply not safe.
Under new Government regulations introduced to parliament earlier this year, the sale of vaping products to under 18-year-olds would be prohibited.
The controversial proposals would also see a ban on advertising, a restriction on the number of flavours which can be sold outside speciality retailers and introduce a product safety system.
But Paul Williamson spokesperson for NZ owned Shosha, the country’s largest retailer of e-cigarettes, says the regulations do not go far enough and will not cover the quality of the product purchased online from international platforms.
Williamson who operates 60 stores under the Shosha brand says regulation in the industry is long-overdue and welcomes the new bill. He says of particular concern is the number of young people who have access to the products.
He welcomes the new age regulation and says more needs to be done to ensure that this is enforced.
“We are a specialist store and have always had an R18 restriction on our products. Failing to adhere to this, causes danger to young people’s health and also puts at risk an industry which is designed to help those trying to take better care of themselves by quitting smoking.
“What is absent from the new regulations appears to be an understanding of how offshore purchases will be managed.
“Currently it appears that anyone will still be able to make a purchase from an overseas website and have the product shipped to their door - which may bypass age restrictions and quality controls,” he says.
Williamson says since the lockdown staff have reported a growing number of new customers who say they are wanting to take better care of their health post COVID-19.
“Customers coming into our stores have told us that being at home has made them focus on their health and that COVID-19 has been a wake-up call,” he says.
Tobacco prices also went up prior to lockdown with an 11.46 per cent increase in tobacco excise from January 1 this year. A pack of cigarettes now retails for nearly $40, on average.
Smoking kills around 5000 New Zealanders every year and new research from the University of Canterbury has found an increase of $15 or more would see a 20% increase in the number of respondents switching to e-cigarettes.
New Zealand has a goal of being smokefree - defined as fewer than 5 percent of people smoking - by 2025.