Information for or about 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.

Becoming a Specialist Vape Retailer (SVR)

A retailer can apply to become a specialist vape retailer 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 their sales from vaping products from their retail premises is at least 70%, or at least 60% if the Vaping Regulatory Authority are satisfied that the lower sales threshold is appropriate in the circumstances.

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 (ie, without a physical store) 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.

You can view and search a list of the Specialist Vape Retailers in New Zealand via the SVR register in HARP.

Applying to be a Specialist Vape Retailer

If you wish to trade as a Specialist Vape Retailer you need to apply to the Vaping Regulatory Authority and have your store(s) and any website approved.

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

The fees are:

  1. Specialist Vape Retailer (SVR) $1600 plus GST (one-off fee)
  2. Approved Vaping Premise (AVP) $600 plus GST (one-off fee per premise)
  3. Approved Internet Site (AIS) $600 plus GST (one-off fee per website)

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

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.

Applications for Approved Vaping Premises

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act 2022 received Royal assent on Friday 16 December 2022, amending the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 (the Act) to include new provisions which will come into effect from 1 January 2023.

Under the new provisions, when assessing applications for Specialist Vape Retailers (SVR) to operate from Approved Vaping Premises (AVP), the Vaping Regulatory Authority (VRA) will now also specifically consider whether the retail premises specified by the SVR in their application are appropriate premises from which to operate. The Director-General of Health cannot approve a person to be a SVR if this condition is not satisfied [see section 20P(2)(a)(ii) of the Act].

The requirement for SVRs to operate from appropriate premises supports a key purpose of the Act, which is to provide for the regulation of vaping products in a way that seeks to minimise harm, especially to children and young people. Harm can be minimised by reducing the normalisation of vaping and reducing young people’s and children’s exposure to the availability of vaping products.

Ministry of Health offices will be closed from 23 December 2022 to 9 January 2023, and due to the VRA’s current workload, all new AVP applications completed and/or paid for after 20 December 2022 will not be assessed until after 9 January 2023. Those assessments will therefore be based on the new provisions. Applicants will be given an opportunity to provide any further information needed.

See below for guidance on matters the VRA will be taking into consideration when assessing an application as a SVR under the new provisions.

Considerations for assessing applications for approval as a SVR

Based on the revised provisions, the VRA’s assessment of an application for approval as a SVR will include consideration of:

  • Whether any emissions within the AVP would be able to pass directly into any other place where people are working [see section 14(1)(a)].
  • Whether staff would always be present in the AVP when it is open so they are able to carry out age-checks before people enter [see section 14(2)]
  • Whether the AVP would have clearly identifiable points of entry, which do not permit under-18s [see section 14(2)]
  • Whether the AVP would be directly accessible from a public thoroughfare (e.g., public pavement, public walkway, walkway in a mall) [see section 20P(1)]
  • Whether the AVP would be a public place, meaning that the public can enter the premises during opening hours [see section 20P(1)]
  • Whether customers would be served inside the AVP [see section 20P(1)]
  • Whether there would be a point of sale inside the AVP [see section 20P(1)]
  • Whether the AVP would be a fixed permanent structure [see section 20P(2)(a)(i)], meaning it will be a structure that is:
    • fixed rather than mobile, and cannot be easily moved
    • permanent rather than temporary, and cannot be easily deconstructed
  • Whether the primary purpose of the AVP would be to sell vaping products, and the primary reason people will enter the AVP would be to purchase vaping products (such that sales threshold requirements would be met) [see section 20P(2)(b)]

Obligations of Specialist Vape Retailers

There are prohibitions and requirements for the sale of notifiable products for all retailers in New Zealand that SVRs must comply with. For example:

  • 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. Detailed annual reporting requirements, including confirmation of the first period for which reporting is required, are set out in the regulations.
  • A Specialist Vape Retailer must continue to meet the minimum sales threshold if they wish to continue operating as a Specialist Vape Retailer.

Record-keeping requirements

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Smoked Tobacco) Amendment Act received Royal assent on Friday 16 December 2022 and new provisions came into effect from 1 January 2023.

Under the new provisions, manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors and retailers of regulated products (smoked tobacco, vaping, herbal smoking and smokeless tobacco products) are responsible for keeping accurate records relating to all of their regulated products.

Manufacturers, importers, exporters, distributors and retailers of a regulated product must take reasonable steps to keep accurate records of:

  1. all the regulated products that they manufacture, import, export, buy, sell, or supply; and
  2. for a manufacturer, the constituents required by regulations to be recorded that the manufacturer uses or intends to use in the manufacture of each regulated product.

Records must be kept for 3 years from the date of each transaction.

An enforcement officer may require a person to provide a copy of the records kept under this section by notice in writing.

The person must provide the enforcement officer with a copy of the records, in the format required in the notice, within 10 working days of receiving the notice.

Our expectation is that a retailer/distributor will already be keeping accurate records as part of their normal business practice. There is no particular format that businesses must use for their records – it will depend on each business’s management system. The Act requires records to be kept for 3 years, and requires them to be provided to an enforcement officer upon request by written notice. The enforcement officer will stipulate in the notice whether the records should be provided in paper or electronic format, and how they should be delivered. Only existing records in their existing format will need to be provided.

The Act does not specify exactly what records must be kept but our expectation is that records would include:

  • What products they have purchased, who they purchased them from and when
  • What products they have sold and when
  • Purchase and sale prices

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 on the outside of their place of business even if it contains a word derived from ‘vape’.

Specialist Vape Retailers are also exempt from a number of prohibitions 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
  • sell any flavour of vaping products or smokeless tobacco products as long as they are notified products.

Cancellations

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

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.

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