New legislation to regulate vaping will be introduced to Parliament tomorrow in an effort to balance helping smokers quit while not encouraging new users.
The move to regulate the industry has been welcomed but there are fears some rules are too restrictive and could result in "losing people back to cigarettes".
The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Vaping Amendment Bill bans the sale of vaping products to those under the age of 18.
It also prohibits advertising the products, restricts the sale of specific flavours to R18 specialty stores, and introduces a safety system which would allow the Ministry of Health to recall products, suspend them and issue warnings.
Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa said the Bill was the most significant change to New Zealand's smokefree laws since they were introduced 30 years ago.
"I am proud our Government is introducing a Bill that helps New Zealand achieve our Smokefree 2025 goal by giving smokers choices in how they give up, but that it also discourages our kids from taking vaping up if they've never smoked before."
Salesa acknowledged the legislation had taken a while since plans to regulate the vaping industry were first announced in November 2018.
She would not be drawn on whether the delays were political but said it took time to work through the details.
When asked whether the new vaping rules would be in place by the election, Salesa was confident the process would move quickly.
"You can rest assured that I'll be asking for an expedited process," she said.
ASH NZ director Deborah Hart encouraged all political parties to ensure legislation was passed into law by the middle of this year.
"The rapid rise of smoke-free nicotine products, especially vaping, is the most disruptive influence on smoking in decades. These products are challenging the smoked tobacco's stranglehold on the nicotine market", she said.
Hart said the Bill recognised the importance of flavours for those trying to quit by allowing them to be sold in specialty R18 stores, while putting controls in place to discourage teenagers from starting to vape.
Stores would only be approved as a specialist vape retailer if 85 per cent of their sales were vaping products.
This restriction addresses concerns e-liquid flavours could potentially appeal to children.
General retailers like dairies and gas stations would only be allowed to sell three flavours- tobacco, mint and menthol.
Auckland Secondary Schools Principals' Association president Richard Dykes welcomed the ban on advertising and said it was "essential" to protect young people, but he was concerned about the regulation of specialty shops.
"We appreciate there are responsible retailers in New Zealand, however, we also know from young people that they already purchase vaping products illegally from some resellers, or simply acquire them through older friends or family members."
Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand spokesman Jonathan Devery said the industry was relieved to have the legislation announced, which would help legitimise the industry.
On the face of it, he was supportive of limiting the sale of flavours in independently owned convenience stores, like dairies, but was concerned the likes of supermarkets and petrol chains were included in the restriction.
Reducing the accessibility of flavours would be counterproductive to the country's Smokefree 2025 ambition, he said.
"People aren't going to go out of their way to find flavours because the whole reason this thing works is because of accessibility, so we will lose people back to cigarettes."
Devery said there was no evidence vaping product flavours encouraged a youth uptake any more than tobacco flavours.
The Bill will receive its first reading in March when it will then be referred to the Health Select Committee.