Given the fact that UK authorities and health entities themselves, endorse the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, it is perplexing that vape shops are being considered non-essential.
The UK’s second nationwide lockdown will once again force all retailers and services (with the exception of those considered essential) to close, between November 5th and December 2nd. In response to this measure, which categorises vape shops as non-essential, the Director General of the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA), John Dunne, said that it is disappointing that the importance of the vaping industry is being ignored once more.
“Whilst we recognize the predicament that the Government faces, with data highlighting the worsening coronavirus situation across the country, as an industry we feel extremely disappointed that the vaping sector has once again been overlooked as one providing essential goods and services. Only earlier this year Public Health England acknowledged the contribution played by vaping in helping smokers quit and recent research has again highlighted that vape products are much more effective than NRTs in helping smokers give up.”
Dunne said that it is illogical that certain products such as alcohol will remain available, while a product that helps people quit smoking will not. “It seems strange – and illogical – that the Government is happy for people to continue shopping for alcohol in off licences, which don’t appear to be on the non-essential shop closure list, but does not allow them to buy vape products or gain specialist advice in store that can help them to quit smoking, which according to PHE is at least 95% more harmful than vaping e-liquids. Vape retail stores are already well kitted out to be compliant with social distancing measures and do not deal with high volumes of traffic like other outlets.”
The UKVIA director rightly pointed out that only last month, the government-funded campaign – Stoptober, was urging smokers to quit cigarettes by switching to vaping. “Only last month the Government-backed Stoptober campaign was encouraging smokers to quit, including through taking up vaping. Those who took up the challenge during the month now do not have access to the same level of support and products from their local vape stores. We will be making these points strongly to the government on behalf of the industry and asking them to reconsider their stance on vape stores and reclassify them as essential in future.”
Recent UK studies indicating that access to vapes helps smokers quit
Ironically, a recent local study published in Plos One, aimed to determine the feasibility of distributing e-cigarettes to smokers attending homeless centres in Britain, with the aim of improving their health and ease the financial burden of purchasing cigarettes. “Providing an e-cigarette starter kit to smokers experiencing homelessness was associated with reasonable recruitment and retention rates and promising evidence of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness,” concluded the researchers.
Moreover, an earlier UK study analysing whether supplying smokers wishing to quit with free e-cigarettes was effective at helping them achieve their goal, had positive results. “On the basis of these results, there may be value in smoking cessation services and other services ensuring that smokers are provided with e-cigarettes at zero or minimal costs for at least a short period of time,” concluded the researchers.
In light of these findings, and the fact that local authorities and health entities themselves, endorse the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, it is perplexing that vape shops are being considered non-essential. This certainly sends the wrong message to the public, undoing all the work at promoting the products as smoking cessation tools.