Confusion still reins as to if vape shops are essential to public health and should remain open during the current UK coronavirus lock-down.
Vaping trade industry associations are in close contact with UK Government for clarification as they believe any vapers returning to smoking, will put extra weight on an already overwhelmed NHS.
However one group has urged its members to shut up shop immediately – more on that in a moment.
In these extraordinary times with smoking adding high risk to complications from the virus, very many smokers are urgently looking to quit with expert advice and vape shops can do just that.
Many vape shops across the country, from small independents to the country’s biggest chain VPZ, are now shutting up shop voluntarily.
Last week VPZ vowed to stay open, however lack of government guidance means as of yesterday [Tuesday 24th March 2020] all 155 shops will be closed for the next 3 weeks.
VPZ’s Doug Mutter, said:
We are disappointed with the lack of clarification from the government regarding where vaping retailers stand.
…We have been advised by both the UK government and the World Health Organisation that smoking has a hugely detrimental impact when coupled with Covid-19.
We as business have a duty of care to help people protect themselves, and to ensure our staff and customers are kept safe. That is why we have so far kept all of our stores open.
VPZ’s role over the last few weeks was to take the stress off the NHS by helping smokers, who are some of the most vulnerable people to Covid-19, to quit the habit.
Despite calls from industry associations to keep vape shops open during the crisis – the UK Government’s instructions to close all none-essential shops didn’t make it clear exactly what could remain open.
As we have seen, Sports Direct for instance, decided selling fitness gear was ‘essential’, following a social media backlash, it has now decided to close. However bike shops and even WH Smith has deemed themselves ‘essential’ and remain open for business.
Given the key role vaping has played in public health and in particular here in the UK, it makes more sense for vape shops to help support the fight against the outbreak.
If vapers – particularly newcomers – cannot get the juice and coils they need – they may revert back to smoking which appears to increase the risk of complications from COVID-19.
Supermarkets and Vape Kits
I saw on social media suggestions that supermarkets are now stocking many vape kits and juices, however is that enough?
The New Nicotine Alliance [NNA] doesn’t think so.
A blog post yesterday begged the UK Government to class vape shops as ‘essential’ in line with France, Switzerland and Italy, with Canada currently reviewing the situation.
The NNA said:
These are very stressful times and access to safer nicotine products must be maintained.
Supermarkets do sell some vaping products, and – while they are very helpful to many former smokers – they are expensive, with little variety, and do not cater for a large sector of society.
Vaping has made a large contribution to the UK’s public health by attracting smokers away from combustible tobacco, and furthermore preventing relapse.
It is important that this continues.
Whilst it’s all well and good vapers using supermarkets to stock up on vape gear and devices, the choice isn’t as wide and if anything, it’s just adding more people to already overcrowded situations – exactly the opposite of social distancing.
As the NNA says, in general vape shops are not exactly packed with people at any one time and being small – in most cases – sensible precautions for staff and customers are easily put into place.
Vape shops are typically low key and do not attract crowds, so there are sensible social distancing measures which can easily be taken to ensure that vapers can continue to access the products they have found so useful in reducing risks to their health.
There are online options for purchasing vape products, but it would be irresponsible to deny those who are not ‘net savvy’ the services that a bricks and mortar outlet gives them.
The NNA represents all current and future consumers of safer nicotine products, not industry, but we agree with trade bodies IBVTA and UKVIA who have both indicated that vape shops are a key resource and should remain open.
The last thing we need during a public health crisis is to encourage another by closing off reduced risk options and leading many to return to smoking widely accessible tobacco.
Petition Launched To Urge UK Government To Keep Vape Shops Open
The is vaping essential during this crisis is a point picked up by one vape shop – Smokey Joes Vape Co in Milton Keynes.
It has launched a petition urging the UK Government to make vape shops ‘essential’ during the lockdown.
Owner Booby Habib says:
We all know vaping provides are a much more healthier alternative and has a bigger success rate for smoker to succeed in giving up smoking and with a deadly virus epidemic that attacks the respiratory system and by reducing the availability of these products for potentially high risk public members that are likely to already have a weakened respiratory system to me would tempt them to gear towards smoking again and could risk individuals who have been able to stop smoking relapse back to smoking cigarettes again.
This would have an impact on the NHS system by potentially increasing hospital admissions, as of last year we had 489,300 hospital admission attributed to smoking which would increase and put more stress on our health system.
I request that the government too re-think and by working with the industry our government and health officials we can ensure we do not send hundred and thousands of reformed smokers back to smoking.
That petition – whilst in its infancy – is receiving little support, and in these crazy times, one doubts the UK Government really gives a flying f**k as to if vape shops should be classed as essential.
I understand that thinking to some extent – however a simple clarification that if correct procedures of social distancing and hygiene are followed, then it should be up to the owners and staff to remain open would be the best option IMHO.
UK Vape Trade Association Says Shut Vape Shops NOW!
We have two major vaping trade associations here in the UK – IBVTA and the UKIA – and whilst both are talking to the government, one says vape shops should close now.
The Independent British Vape Trade Association says:
The announcement by the Prime Minister yesterday evening that we all need to collectively do more in containing this pandemic, was followed late last night by the list of exempted retail stores.
As vape stores are not specifically included in that list, we are doing the responsible thing and advising IBVTA members not to open stores to the public today.
Online and delivery orders are not affected.
The IBVTA worked late into the night and as early as possible this morning in order to get further clarification from governments as to whether vape stores can re-open, and as soon as we have that clarification, we will issue further advice.
We fully respect that this is a very difficult time, and as our phone lines are extremely busy today we appreciate your patience while we work hard to get the answers that best support independent vape businesses, their staff and most importantly, their customers.
You can’t be clearer than that!
As I reported in the Vape News on Sunday, the UK Vaping Industry Association [UKVIA] has already written to the UK’s health departments in England – Scotland and Wales seeking clarification.
At the time of writing there’s not been a response. As I said understandable in these unprecedented times, but IF smoking is adding complications to the COVID-19 virus, then vape shops using sensible safety procedures will be doing more good than harm.
Following Boris Johnson’s broadcast on Monday evening the UKVIA said:
The UKVIA is assessing the Prime Minister’s statement as a matter of urgency.
The new measures will impact all British industries, including vaping.
As a priority we are seeking clarity on whether vape stores are to be included in those essential premises that can remain open, given their vital role in helping people stop smoking. This is particularly important during such an unprecedented public health crisis.
We will continue to support the UK vaping industry in whatever ways are necessary, while ensuring that our members’ commitment to public health is fully met.
The UKVIA will issue a full statement shortly, when all of the facts are fully known.
So it looks as if until there’s clear guidance from the UK Government, vape shops are NOT deemed as essential.
How do you feel about that?
Let me know in the comments below…and of course given this is a developing story, we’ll keep you updated on any significant changes.
Please stay safe – practice social distancing especially whilst vaping in public.
A recent report says that whilst vapour isn’t a danger to the public during the coronavirus lock down – it could be if you cough whilst exhaling – simply put any infected droplets could get hung up in the cloud.
So please be sensible and refrain from chucking clouds everywhere you go we’ve all got enough to worry about without anymore bad news vaping scare stories 😉
Help and Advice For Smokers Looking To Quit
We have been around for over a decade reviewing thousands of vape products – and have a library of guides – hints and tips for both new and established vapers – here’s a few of our links to help you out.
- Vaping Guides
- Best vape kits for new vapers
- Best pod mods – usually found in supermarkets and shops
- All of our good for beginners vape kits
If you can’t get face to face advice because your vape shop is closed and you are desperate to quit smoking during the COVID-19 lock down, please DO contact us – one of the team is usually around 🙂
More vape news on Sunday.