Introduction In 2017, the New Zealand Government signalled its intent to legalise the widespread sale of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), which many New Zealand retailers have actually sold for several years. Although ENDS uptake may reduce the harm smokers face, it requires them to adopt an entirely new practice; we therefore explored how effectively existing non-specialist tobacco retailers could advise and support potential quitters.
Methods Using in-depth interviews with 18 tobacco retailers (prior to legislative change), we explored knowledge of ENDS, attitudes towards selling ENDS and supporting customers’ cessation attempts, perceptions of ENDS’ risks and benefits, and views on the proposed legislation.
Results Participants generally had poor knowledge of ENDS products and provided either no advice or gave incorrect information to customers. They believed that the main benefit consumers would realise from using ENDS rather than tobacco would be cost savings; relatively, few saw ENDS as smoking cessation devices. Those who stocked ENDS did so despite reporting very low customer demand, and saw tobacco as more important to their business than ENDS, citing higher repeat business, ancillary sales and rebates. Participants typically supported liberalising ENDS availability, though several expressed concerns about potential youth uptake.
Conclusions Tobacco retailers’ limited understanding of ENDS, and the higher value they placed on tobacco, suggests they may have little capacity or inclination to support ENDS users to quit smoking. Licensing schemes for both ENDS and smoked tobacco could simultaneously reduce supply of smoked tobacco while requiring ENDS retailers to meet minimum knowledge standards.
- tobacco control
- public policy
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