March 20, 2020
Vaping industry body UKVIA has warned that a double whammy of store closures and stress caused by the coronavirus could lead many former smokers to return to their bad habit.
The organisation sent an open letter to Nadhim Zahawi, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, calling for vape shops in cities, towns and rural areas to stay open and be exempt from any Government lockdown.
John Dunne, director of the UKVIA, said: “The UK vaping industry, including retail outlets, online stores, manufacturers and compliance specialists, has a vital role to play in communities across the country, both from an economic and public health perspective and we want the Government to recognise this in their response to the unprecedented challenge we face.”
Similar open letters have been sent to both the Scottish and Welsh governments.
The UKVIA has sited the situation in Italy – the country worst affected by coronavirus so far – where a policy U-turn on the closure of vape shops was enacted to protect those who have quit smoking.
The change came at the guidance of tobacco control and respiratory disease expert Riccardo Polosa.
John Dunne said: “Dr Riccardo Polosa, a world renowned scientist and researcher on vaping and tobacco harm reduction and founder of the Centre of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction, successfully argued that due to the stress caused by the coronavirus, with the closure of vape shops vapers were highly likely to go back to smoking cigarettes to maintain their nicotine needs.”
The dangers of this from a public health point of view and the risks it poses to children and families – not to mention the impact on an already-stretched healthcare system was enough to help the authorities change their minds and vape shops are now one of the few categories of retail store currently open in Italy.
Backing the vaping industry request, Sir Kevin Barron, an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and former MP, said: “It is predicted that coronavirus will have a huge negative mental health impact on our population with added stress and anxiety arising from being quarantined or isolated, worries about jobs and finances, and the risk of the disease to themselves and friends and families.
“In such situations there can be a heightened temptation to smoke and it’s crucial that continued access to vaping during the crisis ensures vapers do not return to conventional cigarettes.”
And while the coronavirus understandably dominates the focus of government for the next few months, the UKVIA says it must not also lose sight of more long-term goals.
“If vape shops were to close it would mean that smokers and vapers would not have access to specialist advice,” says John Dunne. “Keeping the vaping sector open for business is also crucial to meeting the Government’s target for England to be smoke free by 2030.”