The New Zealand Vaping Regulatory Authority has confirmed it received a total of 2,518 submissions on the Ministry of Health’s draft vaping regulations which closed on 15 March. Over half of the submissions - 1,375 - came from ‘general retailers’, leading a key New Zealand tobacco harm reduction advocate to conclude the Government’s plan to take away all but three vape flavours from general retail has clearly prompted Kiwi businesses into action.
“Last year 17,357 Kiwis signed my Parliamentary petition supporting ongoing access to vape flavours. Now we have over 2,500 submissions about the industry regulations alone,” says Nancy Loucas, co-director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA).
AVCA was formed in 2016 by vapers across New Zealand wanting their voices heard in local and central government. All members are former smokers who promote vaping to help smokers quit - a much less harmful alternative to combustible tobacco products. AVCA does not have any affiliation or vested interest in industry - tobacco, pharmaceutical and/or the local vaping manufacturing or retail sectors.
“Petitions and submissions are great democratic tools, but the problem is this Ministry of Health made up its mind months ago, despite claiming in this process that ‘every voice counts’. In fact, before even reading these submissions the Ministry recommended that the flavour restrictions ‘should come into force as intended on 11 August 2021’. We now need pro-public health politicians to intervene,” Loucas says.
Ms Loucas is calling on Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall overseeing the regulations to urgently review the restriction of vape flavours or sadly watch smoking rates rise and the nation’s smoke-free ambition disappear.
“Adults love flavours. That’s how so many have successfully quit smoking deadly cigarettes - switching to considerably much safer and cost-effective vaping,” she says.
With the Government’s vaping legislation passed last year, it was proposed that for general retail such as supermarkets, service stations and convenience stores, vape flavours would be limited to just three - mint, menthol, and tobacco – from August this year.
“The good news is it’s not over yet. In assessing the public submissions, the Ministry could recommend changes and importantly Cabinet gets to approve the final proposals. We need the fresh eyes and expertise of Dr Verrall. We also want the likes of Minister of Small Business, Stuart Nash, and Maori Health Minister, Peeni Henare, to take another look at these regulations before rubbing stamping them by late June,” Loucas adds.
The Vaping Regulatory Authority also revealed that focus groups with Māori and Pacific peoples, run by Hāpai Te Hauora and Tala Pasifika throughout the consultation period, resulted in 919 submissions.
“Public health entities, including Hāpai Te Hauora and ASH, strongly support flavours, choices, and options for smokers desperate to quit cigarettes. These organisations and the 20,000 Kiwis who have signed or submitted in support of vaping, can’t all be wrong! Democracy has spoken. It’s time for a re-think from our politicians and that opportunity is coming to Cabinet within the next three months,” says Nancy Loucas.
Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy - www.avca.org.nz