Dr Ayesha Verrall reacts as 697 new specialist vape retail licences approved in just one year

  • 02/08/2022

It's nearly one year since new legislation restricting the sale of flavoured vapes came into force.

Its aim was to restrict the accessibility of fruity and confectionary-flavoured vapes that are highly appealing to rangatahi, only making them available from specialty vape stores, rather than the local dairy, service station, or supermarket.

The regulations were announced by Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall as part of a rollout of smoke-free legislation aimed to protect rangatahi from being influenced to start smoking.

But 12 months on, hundreds of specialty vape stores are being built in existing dairies, some within metres of primary and high schools.

Since August 11, 2021, which is when retailers could apply to become a specialist vape retailer, there have been 697 specialist vape retailer premises approved to operate in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health told The Hui. That's almost two licences each day.

Dr Verrall said she is concerned about the number of new licences that were given out, but these are for specialist vape stores which are more restrictive.

"I agree that the vaping increase, particularly across the last year, is not right, so what we are doing through the smoke-free Bill, which is predominantly around tobacco control, is we will have in that measures that will help us enforce vape regulations against vaping," Dr Verrall told The Hui host Mihingarangi Forbes.

There are currently two types of vaping retailers in New Zealand: general retailers and specialist vape retailers. General retailers are restricted to selling vaping products for only three specific flavours, which are tobacco, menthol, and mint. Specialist vape retailers are those who specialise in selling vaping products and are able to sell vaping products with any flavour and are also exempt from other specific restrictions that apply to general retailers. 

Dr Verrall is going to ask for additional advice on further issues, including the proximity of specialist vape stores to schools.

But she admits that they aren't in the position they want to be in with vaping. In her view, she wants it to be a tool people can use to quit smoking.

"We're seeing far too many people start down the path of vaping upfront as opposed to quitting smoking," she said.

Dr Verrall said the impact of their full regulations hasn't been seen yet, but they've still made a lot of progress in building a regulatory regime around vaping.

Watch Dr Verrall's full interview above.