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.

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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.
  • they are located at least 300 metres away from the location point of a school or marae.

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 came into effect from 1 January 2023.

Under the new provisions in the Act, 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.

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

Restrictions on proximity of specialist vape retailers

From 21 September 2023, new specialist vape retailers cannot open within 300 metres from the location point of a primary or secondary school listed on the Ministry of Education internet site or within 300 metres of a marae listed on the Te Puni Kōkiri internet site.

This new rule does not apply to general retailers. Existing specialist vape retailers may continue trading. However, existing approved vape stores within 300 metres of a school or marae will not be issued a new approval, if, for example, the store closes or it is sold to a new business, as approvals cannot be transferred.

Considerations for assessing applications for approval as a SVR

The intention of assessment is to consider whether the premises are appropriate in light of the purposes of the Act and would enable the applicant to comply with the Act, with the following being considerations the Ministry may take into account.

  • Whether the AVP is at least 300 metres from the location point of a school or marae. 
  • 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)]
  • Whether the entranceway to the AVP is separate from the entranceway to any other premises [see section 20P(1)].
  • Whether the AVP’s doorway is completely separate from the doorway of any other premises [see section 20P(1)].
  • Whether the AVP’s entrance door operates completely independently from any other premises’ entrance door [see section 20P(1)].

Obligations of specialist vape retailers

There are obligations of persons selling 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 VRA by 31 January each year for the previous calendar year. Detailed annual reporting requirements are set out in the regulations.

A specialist vape retailer must continue to meet the minimum sales threshold for their store if they wish to continue operating as a specialist vape retailer from that store.

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 business or trading name at 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 as long as they are notified products
  • sell any flavour of vaping products as long as they are notified products.

Ownership changes

Information regarding scenarios of ownership changes, the actions to be taken in these scenarios, and the relevant contact details are included in this table.

Scenario Actions Contact [email protected]
Changing the AVP address The current owner must withdraw their existing AVP license in HARP and submit a new AVP application for the new vaping premises. No email contact required

Selling the entire business as a going concern with no change of business name.

SVR and AVP licenses can be transferred.

The new owner needs to set up an account in the HARP system. Please ensure that the correct director information is listed under New Zealand Company Register before registering for access in HARP.

The licenses will be transferred to the new owner once their account has been completely set up in HARP. The VRA will revoke the old owner’s access to the business once the date of commencement has passed/ begun.

Old owner and new owner must email confirmation of the changes and the expected commencement date.

Selling the AVP as a going concern to another business.

SVR and AVP licenses cannot be transferred.

The old owner needs to withdraw their AVP (and, if applicable, SVR) license (or provide the VRA authorisation to withdraw them on the owner’s behalf) before commencement date.

The new owner needs to register in HARP and submit new SVR and AVP applications.

Please note, new applications will be assessed under the current legislation so premises that have been approved in the past may not be approved now. See Information for or about Specialist Vape Retailers.

Old owner and new owner must email confirmation of the changes and the expected commencement date.


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 complying with any required criteria or conditions.

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