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New Zealand exports of nicotine based vaping products have surged over 100% as cash-strapped Australian’s caught up in lockdown look to quit smoking according to new data.

Under Government regulations, Australians wanting to use vaping products containing nicotine cannot purchase the product from local retailers but can import them from overseas retailers until the end of the year.

According to latest figures, the use of e-cigarettes is growing in many countries including Australia, with the majority of users being current smokers. Australian research has found that almost one third (31%) of smokers have tried e-cigarettes and current e-cigarette use is most common among smokers aged 18-24[1].

Shosha, New Zealand’s largest retailer of electronic cigarettes is reporting a significant surge in online sales to Australia since the lockdown in Victoria began.

Nabhik Gupta, spokesperson for Shosha says their sales of vaping products containing nicotine are up by more than 100% since their lockdown began earlier this month.

“We are now seeing hundreds of orders for nicotine vaping products being sent to customers in Victoria particularly, but also other parts of Australia.

“The feedback we are getting from these customers is that the pandemic has had a significant financial impact on many of them and they are looking for alternatives to cigarettes to reduce their expenses,” he says.

Gupta says it is common for smokers to start their smoking cessation journey with vaping products containing nicotine.

“What we usually see is customers starting with a vaping product with a concentration of nicotine roughly equivalent to an average cigarette and then reducing this down over a period of two years to the point where they are no longer reliant on nicotine at all,” he says.

Gupta says their experience has been lockdown can be a challenging time for smokers.

“Studies have shown that loneliness, such as that experienced under lockdown, can trigger an increased likelihood of smoking behaviour[2].

“We know that smokers can be highly susceptible to changes in their routines or increased anxiety and when you couple this with easier access to cigarettes than their alternatives, it is easy for their efforts to quit smoking to be derailed overnight.

“While in New Zealand, vaping products containing nicotine have been a starting point for the cessation journey of thousands of smokers, access to this option is far more restricted in Australia – with the exception of online imports,” he says.

Gupta says although their customers will eventually graduate to a point where they no longer need their products, they see the opportunity for the business to provide a lasting legacy as providing a positive outcome for the country.

Shosha recently announced plans to expand the number of their retail stores in Australia by a further 20 in the next 18 months as increasing numbers of people turn to combustible cigarette smoking alternatives.

He says the differences in the trans-Tasman operating environment are pronounced, with an entirely different regulatory system governing the sale of their products.

“There are significant variations between each country’s Government towards the sale of nicotine vaping products; with New Zealand preferring to educate consumers on their use, while in Australia they have prohibited their sale and now, their importation,” he says.

[1] Australian National Drug Strategy Household Survey. Accessible here.

[2] ‘Bi-directional effects between loneliness, smoking and alcohol use: Evidence from a Mendelian randomisation study,’ by Robyn E Wootton et al., in Addiction, June 2020.