Thousands of vaping retailers could be flouting the law with little more than a slap on the wrist if the Government continues to turn a blind eye and invest in the wrong places.

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ Chief Executive Ms Letitia Harding says that news of job cuts in the Regulated Products Team at the Ministry of Health was unfortunate, but not surprising.

"From what we understand, they aren’t the ones on the ground ensuring thousands of vape retailers are complying with the law.

"What we want to see is the Government turning its attention to investing in positions doing that mahi on the ground."


An investigation last year revealed the Vaping Regulatory Authority (VRA) - a division of the Ministry of Health - had the equivalent of just three-and-a-half staff, only one of whom is full-time, with a regulatory manager only paid to work 10 hours a week.

"This was not enough to tackle the youth vaping epidemic then, and it’s not enough now," Ms Harding says.

A vaping retailer visited by the Foundation last week revealed numerous non-compliant vaping products in store.

With no commitment from the Government to cap the number of Specialist Vape Retailers (SVRs) - currently sitting at 1530 - there needs to be constant investment in vaping compliance officers, Ms Harding says.

"They need to be investing in people on the ground, those visiting shops and checking the products online to make sure they meet all the legal requirements.

"Perhaps the Ministry of Health aren’t the ones who it should fall to - maybe it needs to be under the Ministry of Justice like liquor-selling establishments?" she says.

"But we need this investment, because, without it, our rangatahi will continue to get addicted to nicotine-containing vapes."

Despite the Government vowing to tackle the youth vaping epidemic by banning disposable vapes, it does not address the issues surrounding underage sales and the lack of quit-vaping support services, Ms Harding says.

Details provided to the Foundation under the Official Information Act (OIA) show that the Vaping Regulatory Authority has launched an investigation into one company, which hosts two vaping websites, for failing to comply with the new vaping laws.

This comes after inspecting 29 websites to check for compliance with product safety requirements, including selling products that did not appear to have a removable battery, did not comply with the nicotine strength labelling requirements or did not appear to have a child safety mechanism.

The Ministry withheld the name of the company it is investigating - and the website domain names - due to the ongoing investigation and to protect the company’s right to a fair trial.

The Ministry confirmed that no fines had been issued, but advised that the "breaches are not infringeable offences".


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