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When you sell tobacco products in New Zealand, there are strict requirements around how you can do so. The government is working towards Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 and adapting regulations to reflect that. The law is likely to change further as more research comes about vaping and its effects on reducing smoking. Therefore, you need to ensure you comply with the already existing law covering tobacco sales and keep up to date about future changes. Build this compliance into your workplace standards and practices to avoid fines and legal penalties. For some guidance, this article will outline five mistakes to avoid when selling tobacco products in New Zealand.

1. Failing to Check ID

Any business that sells tobacco products or similar to a minor (a person under 18) is breaking the law. Tobacco products can include:

  • cigarettes;
  • tobacco;
  • toy products; and
  • herbal smoking products.

Note that this also includes vaping products.

As a tobacco retailer, you need to take reasonable steps to ensure you and your employees do not sell to minors. If you do, you will receive an Infringement Notice from the Ministry of Health, which can result in fines of:

  • $500 for an individual; and
  • $1,000 for a body corporate.

These fines increase if there are court proceedings as well. To avoid this, you need to implement workplace practices to promote tobacco control and reduce the likelihood of selling to a minor. Ask for the ID of anyone that looks under 25, and ensure your employees stick to this rule. You can also:

  • include an age checking sticker at the till for easy age confirmation;
  • only let senior staff sell tobacco, or have senior staff supervise junior staff that do;
  • keep a logbook of incidents and details of any minors that attempt to purchase tobacco; and
  • train your employees to recognise fake IDs, such as incorrect dates or raised lettering.

2. Displaying Tobacco Products

If you fail to display the tobacco products you sell according to the law’s requirements without reasonable excuse, you could face serious fines up to $10,000. It is illegal to:

  • have any signage advertising or mentioning tobacco products; or
  • display tobacco products.

You must ensure that you conceal any tobacco products you sell, except for what is necessary when a customer is purchasing a specific product. This is to reduce the display of tobacco to the general public, particularly minors in a retail setting. Therefore, you want to have appropriate measures that comply with the law’s requirements for displaying tobacco and suit your business.

For example, you could store tobacco under the counter or in an opaque cabinet. Then, only show customers a product list if they want to know what brands you stock, and only open the cabinet when getting specific products.

3. Selling Tobacco That Does Not Meet Packaging Requirements

All tobacco products need to meet strict, standardised packaging standards. All packaging needs to follow the standard:

  • colour;
  • size; and
  • shape.

Each kind of product will have various health warnings on its packaging. For instance, cigarettes have pictorial warnings, including: 

  • on the front of the packaging, in English, that covers 75%;
  • on the back of the packaging, in English and te reo Māori, that covers 50%; 
  • the Quitline logo; and
  • on a different side of the package.

You need to know what the mandatory packaging is for every tobacco product you sell and check that the goods you receive from your suppliers meet these requirements. If you sell tobacco products that do not meet their packaging requirements, you can face various fees.

4. Not Adequately Training Staff

Not only do you need to know the rules around selling tobacco products, but your staff do as well. Include aspects of selling age-restricted products in their general training, going over:

  • how to identify fake IDs;
  • the law around displaying and selling tobacco products;
  • the law and penalties for selling to minors;
  • signage rules; and
  • security.

Train new staff, and refresh training for current staff as necessary. Ensure they sign to recognise you have given them proper training in this area.

5. Not Meeting Restrictions for Vaping Products

From November 11 2020, some of the same rules that apply to tobacco products started to cover vaping products as well. The government is also currently developing product-specific regulations for vaping products, such as selling and advertising requirements. For example, no trader can sell vaping products to minors, and general retailers cannot promote or encourage the use of vaping products except as a better alternative to smoking. However, there are some differences in these rules. If you are a specialist vape retailer, you can provide guidance around vaping use in your approved vaping premises.

You need to make sure you keep up with any changing regulations and determine how they can affect your business.

Key Takeaways

The law sets strict requirements for how you can sell tobacco products. However, following these requirements is not difficult if you know the rules and implement appropriate compliance measures. If you would like more information or help with selling tobacco products, contact LegalVision’s regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it illegal to advertise tobacco products?

You cannot have signage outside your store that advertises the tobacco products you sell. You also cannot advertise tobacco products online or through other means.

Can you sell vaping products in New Zealand?

You can sell vaping products in New Zealand as long as you do so within the law’s parameters. However, the law is continuing to change in this area.

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