Brader is the man behind Hawkes Bay Vapour, which was touted as New Zealand’s first “retail vape store” when it opened in Napier in September 2014.
But, unlike a normal retail store, the shop is prevented by law from selling a key ingredient – nicotine. If customers want to vape nicotine e-liquid, they are allowed to import it themselves from an online store and Hawke’s Bay Vapour is only too happy to help with advice.
Brader does not hold back from criticising the current laws, calling them “insane”.
“I think it’s crazy that you can buy cigarettes with nicotine in them, that clearly kill you, but you can’t buy vaporisers with nicotine. At the same time, pharmaceutical companies can sell [nicotine] patches where toddlers can reach them, yet we’re 18-only,” he says.
And he is clear about the impact of vaping on his own smoking habits: “I liked smoking. Smoking is a pleasurable experience, so I’ve found a way to get the same experience in a way that isn’t killing me and isn’t blowing the budget.”
Brader is not alone in his criticism of the rules. Last week the Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy released a Consumer Bill of Rights for Vapers, calling for nicotine-containing e-liquids to be legally available on the retail market for those over 18, without punitive regulation or tax.
According to the Ministry of Health, there is not enough evidence to show electronic cigarettes help people stop smoking. None have been put forward for approval to make a therapeutic claim, such as smoking cessation support.
For Brader, this means the products he is able to sell – from the vaporisers to flavoured liquids – cannot claim to help people quit smoking.
“We’re not smoking cessation providers and we’re not doctors,” he says.
Despite the cumbersome laws, vaping has plenty of growing appeal, Brader believes.
“Part of the real effectiveness of vaporisers is that they’re not a medical product. They’re interesting and have all sorts of interesting flavours.”
Hawkes Bay Vapour has continued to grow since Brader made the brave move of opening a physical store, instead of being online-only.
People like being able to try before they buy and get a rundown on how vaping works, he says.
This includes an explanation on the rules about where vaping is allowed. Unlike smoking, vaping is allowed inside public places, but Brader encourages customers to be courteous and ask before they vape.
Despite being quite labour-intensive, selling vaporisers and associated products is rewarding work, he says.
The Napier store has grown in size since opening two years ago, expanding into a former cigarette shop next door. It has done so well, Brader is about to open a second store in Hastings.
“We’ve done well enough to think about getting into another town and Hastings is very close to Napier,” he says.