Vaping information for Specialist Vape Retailers

Specialist Vape Retailers are a specific class of retailer that are exempt from some of the restrictions that apply to general retailers.

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Definition

A retailer can apply to become a Specialist Vape Retailer only if:

  • they sell vaping products in New Zealand from at least one retail premises
  • the retail premises from which they will sell vaping products is a fixed, permanent structure
  • the proportion of sales that relate to vaping products sold from their retail premises meets the prescribed eligibility criteria (sales threshold).

Transitional period

The Act provides a transitional period from 11 November 2020 to 10 November 2021 while some of its provisions come into force. During this period, a retailer that has at least one physical retail premise and receives at least 50 percent of their total sales in their retail premises from vaping products can elect to operate as a Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer in respect of those premises.

A retailer can elect to be a Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer at any time from 11 November 2020 to 10 November 2021 provided they meet the prescribed criteria. A retailer who opens a new vape shop can elect to be a Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer and/or nominate the shop to be approved vaping premises once the shop opens, provided they meet the prescribed criteria. 

A retailer that meets the criteria and wishes to operate as a transitional specialist vape retailer can complete the online election form to advise the Vaping Regulatory Authority of their decision. The retailer must have made all arrangements necessary to meet their obligations as a Specialist Vape Retailer before they complete the election form.

Any retail premises declared by the retailer as meeting the prescribed eligibility criteria will be treated as approved vaping premises.

A vape shop (retailer) that has not elected to be a Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer must operate as a general retailer until they elect to be a Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer or until they apply and are approved to be a Specialist Vape Retailer (from 11 August 2021). This may require the retailer to change how their business operates.

A retailer can elect to be a Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer at any time from 11 November 2020 to 10 November 2021 provided they meet the prescribed criteria. A retailer who opens a new vape shop can elect to be a Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer and/or nominate the shop to be approved vaping premises once the shop opens, provided they meet the prescribed criteria.

The transitional period ends on 10 November 2021 and all Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer must have made a successful application to the Vaping Regulatory Authority if they are to continue operating as a Specialist Vape Retailer from 11 November 2021.

Apply to be a Specialist Vape Retailer

View a detailed timeline of the comparison between Specialist Vape Retailers and general retailer obligations and exemptions.

From 11 August 2021, a retailer that sells vaping products from a fixed permanent structure and has at least 60 percent of its total sales from its retail premises from vaping products may apply to the Vaping Regulatory Authority for approval to be a Specialist Vape Retailer.

The sales threshold relates only to the retailer’s physical retail premises – there is no minimum requirement for sales through their website(s) but a Specialist Vape Retailer must sell vaping products at retail price via their approved internet site(s).

An online-only business cannot be a Specialist Vape Retailer as they do not have physical retail premises. However, online-only businesses may operate as wholesale distributors of vaping products, provided they do not sell direct to the public.

There is a fee for applications to become a Specialist Vape Retailer, and a separate fee for each approved vaping premises and each approved internet site that is assessed as part of an application.

All applications are considered by the Authority on a case-by-case basis.

If the retailer’s sales from vaping products are less than 70 percent of the total sales from its retail premises, the Vaping Regulatory Authority will take into consideration the location(s) of the premises and the population(s) served by the retailer when considering the application.

Any retail premises specified in the application that meet the prescribed criteria will be treated as approved vaping premises, and any websites specified by the retailer will be approved Internet sites, provided the retailer sells vaping products from the website.

A Specialist Vape Retailer may apply for new approved vaping premises or approved internet sites at any time by submitting additional applications through the Health Advisory and Regulatory Platform (HARP). They must have approval from the Authority before they start trading from those places.

Specialist Vape Retailer Applications: The Health Advisory and Regulatory Platform is live from 11 August 2021. Retailers can apply to be a Specialist Vape Retailer.

Retail Premises – things to consider

About the Act

The Act does not provide a specific definition of ‘premises’ but factors that should be taken into account when a retailer considers electing to be a Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer in relation to specified premises include:

  • Section 14(1) exempts approved vaping premises from the prohibition on vaping in workplaces. In order for other work areas adjacent to the specified premises to comply with the prohibition on vaping in workplaces, the premises and any adjacent work area must be sufficiently separated such that any emissions inside the premises cannot pass directly into the other work area. Where emissions can pass directly from the premises to an adjacent work area, the premises and the work area would be considered a single workplace, and the requirements of the Act must be applied to both areas together
  • Section 14(2) requires a Specialist Vape Retailer to take all practicable steps to prevent under-18s from entering their approved vaping premises
  • Section 14A(1) only allows a person who sells vaping products from retail premises to apply for approval as a Specialist Vape Retailer in respect of those premises, so:
    • vaping products must be available for sale in the premises, and there must therefore be a point of sale within the premises
    • the premises must be retail premises, and they must therefore be recognisable as retail premises and generally be open to the public during advertised opening hours
      • taking prearranged appointments with members of the public at wholesale, office, or other non-retail premises would not generally be sufficient to make those premises ‘retail premises’
  • Section 14A(2)(a) requires that a Specialist Vape Retailer’s approved vaping premises must be a fixed, permanent structure so mobile or temporary structures cannot be approved vaping premises

Please note that all premises must also comply with other relevant parts of the Act and other relevant legislation, such as those relating to health and safety, workplaces, advertising, etc.

Cancellations

At any time a retailer may cancel their status as an approved or Transitional Specialist Vape Retailer by informing the Vaping Regulatory Authority.

The Director-General of Health may also suspend or cancel a retailer’s status as a Specialist Vape Retailer if there are reasonable grounds to believe they are not in compliance with any required criteria or conditions.

Obligations of Specialist Vape Retailers

A Specialist Vape Retailer must take all practicable steps to prevent people aged under 18 from entering their approved vaping premises.

Specialist Vape Retailers (and manufacturers and importers) must also keep sales records and provide annual reports and returns to the Vaping Regulatory Authority. The reports and returns will be due with the Authority by 31 January each year for the previous calendar year.

A Specialist Vape Retailer must continue to meet the minimum sales threshold if they wish to continue operating as a specialist vape retailer.

Detailed annual reporting requirements, including confirmation of the first period for which reporting is required, are set out in the regulations.

Exemptions for Specialist Vape Retailers

A Specialist Vape Retailer’s approved vaping premises are exempt from the prohibition on vaping within workplaces that came into force on 11 November 2020. This allows Specialist Vape Retailers to demonstrate the safe use of vaping products and means customers can try products before purchasing them.

A Specialist Vape Retailer may also display their name or trade name on the outside of its premises that contains a word derived from ‘vape’.

Specialist Vape Retailers are also exempt from a number of prohibitions from 11 November 2020 on advertising vaping products. Specialist Vape Retailers may:

  • communicate about vaping products to their existing customers, including via email, online messaging or social media, provided this complies with any relevant regulations
  • talk to customers inside their approved vaping premises about vaping products, provided this complies with any relevant regulations
  • provide guidance on the safe use of the vaping products available in their approved vaping premises
  • distribute vaping products free or at a reduced charge from their approved vaping premises or approved internet site
  • offer the purchaser of vaping products a gift or cash rebate, or the right to participate in a contest, lottery or game, in consideration for their purchase
  • continue to sell any flavour of vaping products or smokeless tobacco products after 11 August 2021, other than flavours that have been expressly prohibited.

Prohibition on signage in physical locations outside the retail premises

From 11 November 2020, retailers are prohibited from displaying their name or trade name at the outside of their retail premises if it indicates that regulated products are available for purchase, or if it contains a trademark of a regulated product, or the company name of a regulated product manufacturer or importer. However, a Specialist Vape Retailer may display their name or trade name even if it contains ‘vape’ or a word derived from ‘vape’.

However, this exemption only applies to names displayed at the outside of the retailer’s place of business, it does not extend to company vehicles or other physical locations. Displaying a vaping-related name or trade name, or any promotional material relating to vaping, elsewhere is prohibited as a regulated product advertisement.

Notice templates

General retailers and Transitional/Specialist Vape Retailers can access templates for mandatory and optional notices on the industry page.

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