The Vaping Regulatory Authority has requested all vaping retailers, and importers review all their products to ensure they are complying with the law.
Vaping products are regulated under the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 (the Act), with specific vaping regulation introduced in November 2020. These regulations are aimed at minimising the harm caused by these vaping products, while recognising that there are a significant number already being legally being sold in New Zealand that could provide a valuable tool in helping some people quit smoking.
Under these regulations, vaping retailers, manufacturers, and importers that notify a vaping product with the Authority are responsible for ensuring their notifications are accurate, and that their products comply with the product safety requirements set out in the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Regulations 2021 (the Regulations). 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.
Recently, the authority has had reports that some vaping substances for sale in New Zealand may not be complying with some of these regulations, specifically the limit on nicotine salts, and some vaping retailers, manufacturers or importers may have misinterpreted the regulations limiting nicotine salt levels and provided misleading information when notifying their products with the Authority.
The main risk with levels of nicotine beyond the permitted level in New Zealand is a vaping product will be more likely to continue a person’s addiction long-term.
The Ministry has received a representation from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) also asking for the Ministry to review the current limits on nicotine salts to ensure that smokers are not discouraged to switch to vaping if the nicotine levels are not comparable with smoking tobacco.
The Ministry has responded saying that the Ministry will promptly consider the issue raised by ASH though the current regulations should guide retailers and others in the industry at this stage.
To support compliance with the regulation the Authority has recently:
- Requested all notifiers to review their notifications for nicotine vaping substances. If any notifiers that find that their products exceed the nicotine salt limit, we have instructed them to withdraw their product notification and cease selling those products immediately, including communicating these actions to any distributors and retailers that may be stocking their products.
- Requested all retailers contact their suppliers to establish whether any nicotine salt vaping substance products they are selling need to be withdrawn, because they do not comply with the nicotine limit. The Authority has asked that when products have been withdrawn, retailers cease selling them immediately.
- Asked retailers to regularly review the ‘Notified Products Register’ to confirm that the vaping products they are selling have been notified with the Authority.
- Reminded vaping retailers, manufacturers, and importers that breaching vaping regulations will result in enforcement action, and potentially prosecution. If they are convicted, the courts can issue a fine of up to $400,000.
In addition, the vaping authority will be taking several additional steps to support vaping retailers, manufacturers, and importers to comply with regulations.
- Reviewing the nicotine levels and ingredients for each product that has been notified to the Ministry. If the authority finds products that have been notified with an excess of nicotine, nicotine salts, or prohibited ingredients it will work with notifiers to verify the accuracy of their notification.
- Proactively purchasing samples of vaping products from vape retailers, both online and at retail stores, and testing those samples to determine their ingredients and flavour profiles (ensuring products purchased from general retailers do not include flavours other than mint, menthol and tobacco)
- Testing vaping substances labelled as containing 5% nicotine salts to ensure their nicotine salt content is no more than 50mg/mL.
- Purchasing vaping devices from vape retailers, both online and at retail stores, and assessing their compliance with product safety requirements.
- Working with Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand to ensure health promotion and compliance activities are carried out regularly and consistently throughout the country.
The Authority will continue to monitor, educate and, where necessary, take enforcement actions, to support compliance with vaping regulations designed to minimise the harm to New Zealanders from these products.