For immediate release – 9 December 2021

Convenience retailers under significant stress from the fallout of COVID-19 are calling for more consultation so the Government can hear from those whose livelihoods will be severely impacted by the Smokefree 2025 Action Plan.

NZ Association of Convenience Stores (NZACS) Executive Director, Dave Hooker says that a number of the Government’s Smokefree regulatory proposals have the potential to punish smokers and will inevitably drive black market trade while hurting small business.

NZACS fully supports 4 of the government’s 6 action points released today namely

1. Expand Māori leadership & decision making
    2. Increase health promotion and community action
    3. Increase stop smoking services
    4. Ensure the law is followed by the industry

NZACS does however see major pitfalls in

    5. Make it easier to quit and harder to become addicted
Reduced nicotine products have the potential to increase smoking volumes and fuel the black market. A lot more information will be required to know if these products are even able to be produced for the NZ market. Not to mention the fact NZ has a local growing allowance for tobacco which will be ripe for exploiting if not captured by the commercial rules and leak into the black market.

    6. Make smoked tobacco products harder to buy
The reduction of retailers from around 5,000 to 500 would be devasting to thousands of our retail fuel & convenience group stores. These are mainly independent NZ family businesses that are well organised, exceptionally compliant and have been selling tobacco responsibly for decades.

“We would echo New Zealand’s leading independent public health NGO, ASH New Zealand, who call for fairness, and recommend the priority be on reducing demand first, to minimise the risk of an exponential black market tobacco trade.

ASH NZ describe vaping as a ‘game changer’ and list top three priorities for Smokefree 2025 being (1) Invest in mass-media quit smoking campaigns; (2) Invest in on-the-ground community cessation outreach in hard-to-reach communities; and (3) Encourage smokers to switch to less harmful options.

New Zealand Customs also warns that the proposals of very low nicotine cigarettes and restricting responsible retailer footprint now, while there are still around 400,000 smokers risks pushing that demand towards the black market.

“We are deeply concerned that thousands of existing responsible retailers such as the organised convenience sector will lose tobacco revenue and associated footfall, with no financial support from the Government.

NZACS is also calling for the urgent reintroduction of flavoured vaping products into traditional retail given their huge importance in helping smokers to switch.

“There is a common assertion that the convenience sector is somehow to blame for youth vaping – which we totally reject. The Government continues to ignore the most glaring loophole for youth access – online vape shops with zero ID checks. Mandatory online age-verification should have been introduced with the vaping legislation but was put in the too hard basket – it is a no-brainer and the government needs to close this loophole for youth, while ensuring genuine adult smokers are supported with good education, awareness, and access to these less harmful options”.

ENDS

Contact:
Dave Hooker – 027 471 9366

Click here to download the Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Fact Sheet