Fifteen months after a Parliamentary petition supporting ongoing access to vape flavours closed, and nearly a year after it was referred to the Health Select Committee, it has finally been reported and ruled on with the official response described as woeful.
Petition organiser, Nancy Loucas, who is co-director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA), said the whole process has been incredibly disheartening, with 17,357 Kiwis who signed the petition dismissed outright despite mounting evidence.
Launched in 2019 ahead of the Government’s vaping legislation being introduced, AVCA’s petition to Parliament requested: ‘That the House of Representatives debate the Government’s proposal to limit flavoured nicotine e-liquids to mint, menthol and tobacco’.
However, passed last year, the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Act paved the way for heavy flavour restrictions on general retail outlets such as supermarkets, service stations, and convenience stores.
From 11 August, general retailers will be limited to selling just mint, menthol and tobacco vape flavours. Only specialist vape stores will be able to sell a wide range of flavours.
“Last year inadequate time and attention was given to the submission process with Parliament sitting on my petition for months. MPs only referred it to the Health Select Committee after they’d passed the vaping legislation on 5 August. Then the Ministry of Health dismissed it, before the select committee finally got around to throwing it out just now. It’s all been very disappointing,” says Ms Loucas.
‘We believe that the proposal to limit vaping flavours has been adequately canvassed and debated, both by the Health Committee of the 52nd Parliament during the select committee stage and in the House,” concluded the select committee on 11 June 2021.
The leading Tobacco Harm Reduction advocate says the Ministry’s logic for limiting flavours was completely flawed, wrongly referring to overseas statistics which do not resemble New Zealand’s reality.
“All the scientific evidence supporting smokers’ access to a wide range of vape flavours was ignored. The only winners in all of this are the multi-national tobacco giants,” she says.
AVCA is now holding out for Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall’s smokefree action plan, and the latest round of Ministry of Health vaping regulations due for Cabinet sign-off soon.
“Let’s not forget over 17,000 Kiwis signed AVCA’s petition. That support, and all the international evidence backing flavours as key to smoking cessation, has not gone away. In fact, it has only strengthened.
“If the Government’s Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan is to succeed, vaping must be elevated as the safer alternative and popular vape flavours must remain accessible to adults desperate to quit deadly cigarettes,” says Nancy Loucas.
To read the Health Select Committee’s final report on AVCA’s petition, visit: https://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/SCR_111760/681f3dce4cb5e42bb8713c5f5e85808e4a3309d7