With regard to the vaping industry, all eyes have been on the United States in 2019. Teen vaping – particularly underage use of the JUUL e-cigarette brand – has been on the rise for several consecutive years, peaking with a reported 5 million underage vapers as of this year. Concerned citizens around the country have demanded that the U.S. government do something about teens' access to vaping products and their desire to use them.
So far, the federal government has announced two proposed moves to curb teen vaping.
- In September 2019, President Trump announced that the U.S. government would be banning all flavored vaping liquids except those designed to taste like tobacco. The flavor ban hasn't happened yet.
- In December 2019, Congress passed legislation that will raise the minimum age nationwide for buying tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21. President Trump has indicated that he supports the legislation.
Whether the proposed e-liquid flavor ban will actually happen remains unknown. Trump's political allies have warned that voters who vape could turn on the incumbent President in 2020, sinking his reelection campaign. Nevertheless, several U.S. states have taken the matter into their own hands and banned various vaping products in those states.
The way in which the U.S. government decides to handle underage vaping will have widespread ramifications because the rest of the world is watching. That's particularly important in newer vaping markets like New Zealand, where Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa has indicated a desire to introduce a proposal banning most e-liquid flavors to prevent a teen vaping epidemic before it starts.
The proposed e-liquid flavor ban in New Zealand wouldn't just affect leading vape shops like Premium Vape NZ. It would also deeply impact New Zealand's former smokers who depend on e-liquids with appealing flavors to keep them away from combustible cigarettes.
So, what will happen in New Zealand if that country's government decides to handle flavored e-liquid in the same way that President Trump has proposed?
Philip Morris Would Take Over the NZ Tobacco Harm Reduction Industry
The proposed e-liquid flavor ban in New Zealand would eliminate all e-liquids except those with tobacco, mint and menthol flavors. The problem with tobacco e-liquids, though, is that they don't actually taste like tobacco. Some people like them anyway, but most people find that it's actually easier to use a fruit- or candy-flavored e-liquid to quit smoking.
If New Zealand does ban most flavored e-liquids, the flavor options for smokers who want to switch to vaping will be far less appealing than they currently are. Many smokers will choose the competing IQOS system from Philip Morris instead. IQOS is legal and available in New Zealand, and it uses real tobacco.
The data suggest that IQOS isn't as safe as vaping, but if it's the only appealing option available for harm reduction, people will take it. The harm reduction market in New Zealand will become much like the Japanese market. In Japan, the nicotine e-liquid is illegal. IQOS is the leading tobacco harm reduction product in Japan.
Big Tobacco Would Take Over the New Zealand Vaping Industry
Big Tobacco wouldn't just take over the New Zealand tobacco harm reduction industry in the event of a flavor ban; it would take over the vaping industry as well. If the flavor ban goes through, most independent New Zealand e-liquid makers will close. There just isn't a big enough market to sustain a vibrant industry of independent e-liquid companies if those companies can't sell anything but tobacco, mint and menthol e-liquids.
The vaping products made by Big Tobacco companies, however – products like JUUL, Vuse, and Blu – will remain available. Big Tobacco companies won't mind if some flavored e-liquids become illegal in New Zealand; they'd rather sell cigarettes anyway. They'll happily continue selling tobacco, mint and menthol vaping products to the few people who want them, and they'll sell cigarettes to everyone else. Whatever remains of the New Zealand vaping industry after the flavor ban will be controlled by Big Tobacco.
The New Zealand Flavor Ban Would Create a Black Market for E-Liquid
If New Zealand bans most flavored e-liquids, that won't stop all vapers from using those products. Some people will switch to the e-liquid flavors that are still legal after the ban. Others, however, will acquire the e-liquid flavors they want by whatever means are necessary. The ban, in other words, will create a black market for flavored e-liquid.
New Zealanders who are determined to do so will acquire flavored e-liquid in one of three ways.
- They'll buy the raw ingredients and make it themselves. Some accidental nicotine poisonings will result.
- They'll buy the e-liquid from black-market sellers who make it under potentially unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Since those sellers will be operating in a completely unregulated space, buyers will have no way of knowing what's in the products. Adulterated and contaminated e-liquids will undoubtedly sicken some people.
- They'll attempt to import e-liquid from overseas vendors. Already overtaxed customs agents will have extra work on their hands scanning packages for contraband e-liquid that should never have been illegal in the first place.
The New Zealand Flavor Ban Will Leave Australian Vapers in the Cold
A ban on flavored e-liquid in New Zealand won't just affect that country's vaping community; it'll also have an impact on Australian vapers.
In Australia, all nicotine e-liquid is illegal to purchase from domestic vendors because liquid nicotine is a controlled substance. It is legal, however, for Australians to obtain prescriptions for nicotine and import their e-liquid from abroad. Australian vapers who choose to import their e-liquid often buy from vape shops in New Zealand because the shipping is fast and inexpensive.
If New Zealand bans most e-liquid flavors, Australian vapers will likely take their business to other nations such as the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. They'll pay much more for the products, and they'll have to endure much longer shipping times.
Source: Baltimore Post-Examiner