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Waikato Herald - 2021-10-15

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Vaping retailer campaigns for border pass

News

Danielle Zollickhofer

As people deal with the struggles of life under level 3 restrictions, like juggling working from home and childcare, Auckland-based vape retailer Shosha is complaining about its in-house construction workers being denied border exemption to advance the company’s expansion programme in several Waikato towns and elsewhere in New Zealand. But at least one Waikato mayor says vaping should not be something to be focused on amid the pandemic. South Waikato District Mayor Jenny Shattock says: “There is no way I want them to cross the border to the South Waikato while we are in level 3.” However, Shosha’s concerns did elicit some sympathy from the Action on Smoking and Health group (ASH), which says vaping is a critical tool to help people quit smoking. “No one died of it [Covid] today, while every day 14 people die of smoking-related diseases,” an ASH spokesperson told the Waikato Herald. Shosha spokesman Abhinav Gupta says the company needs its team of four specialist builders to travel from Auckland to fit out 20 new stores, including in Matamata, Morrinsville, Te Awamutu, Tokoroa, and Huntly. Shosha’s application for an exemption has been turned down several times despite the fact it is considered an essential services provider because it supports smoking cessation programmes. The company says the travel restriction is also preventing the creation of more than 100 retail sector jobs in the regions. Gupta says: “Shosha is paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent on the leased stores, which we can’t access. As a smoking cessation supplier, we are considered an essential service provider, yet we’re unable to meet the need at a regional level. “While some products can be ordered online many of our customers prefer to visit the store to seek advice on quit smoking products.” He says all four construction team members have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine and are voluntarily having a weekly Covid test to ensure they are cleared, so the workers are frustrated they are unable to work. “I can’t understand why many other essential services are free to travel outside of Auckland while others like ourselves are restricted. As a business, we need greater transparency around when the Auckland borders will reopen,” Gupta says. The mayor of the Matamata-piako District, which includes Matamata, Morrinsville and Te Aroha, Ash Tanner, is in two minds about Shosha’s dilemma. “I feel for them because businesses have it hard at the moment due to the lockdowns — there is a lot of uncertainty — and there will be people out there looking for jobs. But it’s debatable whether [Shosha] is an essential service. For people trying to give up smoking it probably is essential, but [they] can access the supplies from other places.” ASH director Deborah Hart says dairies and gas stations are allowed to sell only particular flavours of vaping supplies. “But lots of people are trying to get away from that, so they want other flavours . . . vaping is a critical tool to help people quit smoking.” She says that vapes are a harmreduction approach. “From this viewpoint it’s important . . . vaping products continue to be available to people who want to quit smoking . . . [Also] our interest is getting New Zealand smoke-free by 2025 and vapes help us achieve this goal.” According to Hart, Shosha’s situation can’t be seen as black and white. “[Shosha] sells a product that needs to be available and should be more available than cigarettes. If they were to set up [shops] in areas where vape products are not easily accessible, Shosha has a point [in complaining about not receiving an exemption].” Shattock says there were already enough vaping shops in her district. “I am disappointed to hear they are setting up another shop. “We already have one that is directly in front of a high school — which really distresses me. Vaping is legal and we can’t stop it, but I want it more controlled.” She says she doesn’t think vaping should be something to be focused on at this time. “There is no way I want them to cross the border to the South Waikato while we are in level 3, it’s important to keep our borders up. I acknowledge their point [of providing a smoking cessation service], but I think it’s important to concentrate on stamping out the virus. “The impact of Covid is more severe than the one of them not being able to set up their shops.”

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