The Vaping Regulatory Authority is reviewing each of the 8,083 vaping substances that have been notified in New Zealand to identify any that may be non-compliant with the product safety requirements.
So far, the Authority has found no issues with 2,374 vaping substance notifications. A further 3,413 vaping substances have been identified for more detailed review or for clarification of the information that was provided when the product was notified to the Authority. In many cases, issues are likely to be related to incidental errors or omissions and will not result in any issues with the vaping products being sold.
All vaping products must be notified to the Authority, and the notification process automatically flags products that include known dangerous chemicals for review and does not allow notifiers to notify products that exceed legally permitted nicotine levels. Under these regulations, products are not assessed or tested separately by the Authority when they are notified with all vaping notifiers remaining responsible for ensuring information, they provide in their notifications about their products is accurate, and that their products comply with the product safety requirements.
However, to provide additional assurance, the Authority is assessing each notification where further clarification is needed to determine whether a non-compliant vaping product is being sold in New Zealand. If a potentially non-compliant product is identified, the Authority will contact each notifier (the New Zealand importer or manufacturer) for that product, asking them to confirm the product details, and to withdraw the product if it is not compliant or to provide further assurances that the product is compliant. Suppliers that do not respond to this request will be followed up and provided with more support and education. Those that continue to supply or sell non-compliant products could face enforcement action from the Authority or Smokefree Enforcement Officers and potentially be prosecuted for selling illegal vaping products. If they are convicted, the courts can issue a fine of up to $400,000.
The Authority is taking these steps following concerns that some notifiers and retailers have been confused about the legally permitted levels of nicotine salts in vaping products, and that some products for sale in New Zealand could exceed these legal limits.
In response to these concerns, the Authority wrote to all specialist vape retailers and notifiers on 27 October asking them to review all their products to ensure they are complying with the law and withdraw any products that were not complaint.
Today the Authority has written to all specialist vape retailers and notifiers again to remind them of their legal obligations and restating the legal limits for nicotine salts that apply in New Zealand.
The Authority is also setting up a new testing regime that would purchase vaping product for sale and testing their ingredients and nicotine levels to ensure they are complaint.
The Authority remains committed to supporting the vaping industry to minimise the harm caused by vaping products, while recognising that there are a significant number of products already being legally being sold in New Zealand, which could provide a tool in helping people to quit smoking. This commitment includes ongoing efforts to raise awareness on the regulatory requirements as well as enforcement action where this is needed.
At this stage, there is no evidence that vaping products being sold in New Zealand have levels of nicotine high enough to significantly increase users’ risk of harm. The main risk with vaping products with levels of nicotine beyond the permitted level in New Zealand is they are more likely to increase a person’s nicotine addiction.
We will continue to review the compliance of vaping products as a priority and move quickly if there is deemed to be significant risk to public safety associated with any of these products.
Additional information on vaping regulations
Vaping products are regulated under the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 (the Act), with specific vaping regulation introduced in November 2020 setting a number of limits and requirements for all vaping products being sold in New Zealand.
All vaping products for sale in New Zealand must be notified through the Authority’s Health Advisory and Regulatory Platform (HARP) database. Products that are not notified, or notified incorrectly, cannot be legally sold in New Zealand.
One of these requirements when notifying is that vaping substances for sale in New Zealand cannot exceed concentrations of 20mg/mL for freebase nicotine or 50mg/mL for nicotine salts. These two separate limits reflect that some vaping substances use nicotine derived by tobacco by itself, as a freebase, while others mix the nicotine with an acid, such as benzoic acid, creating a salt.
The Authority has recently reviewed the limits on nicotine salts following some concerns being raised about their interpretation. Following this review, the Authority has confirmed the 50mg/ml nicotine salt limit is consistent with the legal intent of the regulation and will continue to be applied across the industry.