New restrictions on the sale of vaping products in convenience stores has prompted New Zealand’s largest vaping retailer, Shosha, to plan on opening 15 new stores nationwide before the end of the year, which it claims will help people quit smoking.
Recently Parliament passed the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill, which limits generic retailers such as dairies, service stations and supermarkets to selling only tobacco, mint and menthol flavoured vaping products.
However, specialist vape retailers will be able to sell any flavours from their shops and websites.
Currently there are around six specialised vaping product stores on the Hibiscus Coast – a number that has grown rapidly in recent months. They include a Shosha store in Whangaparaoa and a second one recently opened in Silverdale.
Shosha spokesperson Nabhik Gupta says the new legislation brings a “level of certainty” for specialty stores and allows them to make the regulated supply of vaping products more accessible.
“By providing more convenient access for smokers to alternatives to combustible cigarettes, we aim to help thousands more Kiwis transition away from the harmful effects of smoking”, he says.
Mr Gupta says the retailer also wants to support customers impacted by the ban on smokeless tobacco which will be prohibited from sale in the coming months.
“Plans to contact those affected and help them find new alternative products to smokeless tobacco, as they transition off combustible cigarettes, are now being implemented,” he says.
But Shosha’s plans received a cool response from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation.
Chief executive Letitia Harding says the ability of new stores to help cigarette smokers quit will be dependent on the stores’ relationship with primary healthcare providers and local quit smoking networks.
“We recommend that the advice given out by specialist vape stores should focus not only on what the most suitable products are, but also on providing smoking cessation information and support.
“Nicotine concentrations in vape products should be gradually reduced to minimise nicotine addiction and ultimately achieve a vape-free and smoke-free Aotearoa,” she says.
Ms Harding says some e-cigarettes expose users to much more nicotine than traditional cigarettes.
She adds that e-cigarette vapours contain toxic heavy metals and chemicals linked to lung disease and cancer. Those nearby are at risk of second-hand exposure. Children have been poisoned by swallowing e-liquid or absorbing it through their skin or eyes. While flavourings added to vape products have been deemed safe for ingestion, it has not been established that they are safe to inhale.
Ms Harding says a common misconception around vaping is that it is 95 percent safer than smoking, but she says this figure is derived from an anecdotal article and is not founded on scientific research.
Among those citing the 95 percent figure is the associate health minister Jenny Salesa, who referred to it in a press release lauding the passage of the Smokefree Environments bill.
The Smokefree bill comes into effect next month and includes prohibitions on vaping in the workplace, advertising and sponsorship of vaping products, and the sale of vaping products to those under 18.