Smokers may be at risk of having their efforts to quit smoking derailed as new Government legislation conflicts with current COVID-19 restrictions.
New legislation passed last week will significantly restrict the range of vaping products available to the public through dairies and service stations in the coming weeks.
At the same time, speciality vaping stores are not considered an essential service provider during a Level 4 lockdown.
Nabhik Gupta, spokesperson for NZ owned Shosha the country’s largest retailer of e-cigarettes says weeks under lockdown can place additional stress on smokers.
He says they have had a surge in calls from panicked customers today concerned about their access to retail supplies of vaping products and the potential impact on their efforts to quit smoking.
“Studies have shown that loneliness, such as that experienced under lockdown, can trigger an increased likelihood of smoking behaviour.
“We know that smokers can be highly susceptible to changes in their routines or increased anxiety and when you couple this with easier access to cigarettes than their alternatives, it is easy for their efforts to quit smoking to be derailed overnight.
“When the new Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Vaping Amendment Bill comes into effect in 11 weeks time, if we are at Level 4 at that time smokers will have reduced access to alternative products.
“We can expect that well ahead of that timeframe, retailers will run down their current vaping stocks and not replace them - knowing that they will not be legally allowed to sell them after that.
“This means that should the country enter Level 4 in the coming days, the nearest convenience stores in some town centres may already have a very limited range of vaping products.
“While purchasing online is an option for some there are many customers that don't have a credit card or simply need to make an urgent purchase to help keep their smoking cessation efforts on track and can’t wait for the extended delays such as those experienced by courier services during the last lockdown.
“Ultimately the new legislation is out of sync with COVID restrictions; the regulations empower speciality stores to control the supply of vaping products to consumers but at the same time, these stores will not be able to open at a time when they are most needed,” he says.
Gupta says a move to classify speciality vaping stores in the same category as dairies, service stations and some liquor retailers as essential service providers, in preparation for any potential move to Level 4, will also support smokers trying to quit during lockdown.
 'Bi-directional effects between loneliness, smoking and alcohol use: Evidence from a Mendelian randomisation study,' by Robyn E Wootton et al., in Addiction, June 2020.