Since 21 November 2022, 60 companies have been required to provide product safety information to the Authority. This requirement followed concerns from the Authority that some businesses may have misunderstood the legally permitted levels of nicotine salts in vaping products, meaning some products for sale could exceed these legal limits.
On 30 January 2023, 42 of the 60 companies were asked to provide additional information or clarifications to the Authority, with a deadline of 28 February 2023 for them to demonstrate their products are compliant with the law. This extended deadline took into consideration that the companies were also in the process of submitting their first annual sales returns to the Authority as part of their legislative obligations.
The Authority is currently reviewing the responses provided by these 42 companies and will take the appropriate course of action if investigations identify any products are not complying with current regulations, including working through the prescribed notification cancellation process for these products. Products whose notification has been withdrawn or cancelled can no longer be legally sold in New Zealand.
Thirteen of the 60 companies have withdrawn all of the notifications for the products the Authority requested information on, and no further action is planned at this stage provided those products are no longer sold in New Zealand.
The Authority is continuing to engage with the remaining five companies to ensure all vaping products sold in New Zealand are compliant.
In the interests of natural justice, the Authority is not able to comment on individual cases or products at this stage and cannot pre-empt the outcomes of current investigations.
At this stage, there is no evidence that vaping products being sold in New Zealand have levels of nicotine high enough to significantly increase the risk of harm. The main risk with vaping products with levels of nicotine beyond the permitted level in New Zealand is that they may increase a person’s nicotine addiction.
The Authority will continue to publish regular updates on the progress of its product investigations.
Each of the 60 companies responsible for the 2,149 products under investigation has been asked to provide:
- a full list of ingredients for the product, including the volume or weight of each
- an image or photograph of the product’s labelling, including the ingredient lists
- details of the actions and assessments they undertook to satisfy themselves that the product was safe prior to notifying it for sale in New Zealand.
All vaping products on sale in New Zealand must be notified to the Authority. The notifications system automatically flags notifications that include prohibited chemicals for review and does not allow notifiers to declare nicotine levels above the permitted maximums. Under the regulations, products are not assessed or tested separately by the Authority when they are notified. Vaping notifiers are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe, that they comply with the product safety requirements, and that information they provide in their notifications about their products is accurate.
Under the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 (the Act), the Authority, under delegation from the Director-General of Health, has the power to cancel product notifications after hearing submissions from the relevant notifier if, for example, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the product poses an unacceptable risk of harm or that the product contains a substance exceeding any maximum limit.
In exercising that power, the Authority would follow the notification cancellation process that is set out in the Act. That may ultimately include requiring the notifier (New Zealand manufacturer or importer) to recall the product and work with their distributors and/or retailers to ensure that the product is no longer sold in New Zealand.
Vaping products are regulated under the Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 (the Act), with specific vaping regulation introduced in November 2020 setting a number of limits and requirements for all vaping products being sold in New Zealand.
All vaping products for sale in New Zealand must be notified through the Authority’s Health Advisory and Regulatory Platform (HARP) database. Products that are not notified, or notified incorrectly, cannot be legally sold in New Zealand. The Notified Products register is available at Notified Products Register – Health Advisory and Regulatory Platform.
One of these requirements when notifying is that vaping liquid for sale in New Zealand must not exceed a freebase nicotine concentration of 20mg/mL or a nicotine salt concentration of 50mg/mL. These two separate limits reflect that some vaping substances use nicotine derived by tobacco by itself, as a freebase, while others mix the nicotine with an acid, such as benzoic acid, creating a salt.