IBVTA writes to local and national governments
The IBVTA shares the view of Professor John Britton of the University of Nottingham, and former Chair of the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, that vape stores should be deemed essential retail outlets.
Every year, over 70,000 people across the UK die of a smoking related illness. Providing ready access to safer alternative products should be at the forefront during consideration by governments as to when businesses are phased to re-open.
Almost all of the UK’s 3.6 million vapers are ex-smokers or current smokers. These vapers have replaced entirely or are reducing their combustible tobacco dependence with a much safer (and less addictive) alternative. However, the vast majority of those vapers are still addicted to nicotine at least to some degree, and in many cases are reliant on their local vape shop to ensure continuity of supply.
While e-cigarettes, e-liquids and associated accessories have been available through online sales and local deliveries throughout the lockdown period, a proportion of those vapers will have been very tempted to buy a packet of cigarettes to tide them over, and a proportion that are currently using both e-cigarettes and cigarettes will have undoubtedly reverted entirely to smoking rather than continue vaping.
Despite plain packaging for combustible cigarettes, and the display restrictions imposed on the product set, cigarettes have still been available in a huge range of outlets, and have been far more easily accessible than vaping products since the retail restrictions came into place in March.
The IBVTA’s advice remains the same. Customers should continue to purchase online whenever possible in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. However, where that is not possible, vape stores should be allowed to open safely to serve those customers in order that they do not return to smoking.
The majority of IBVTA members are ready to open in a manner that provides protection for both staff and customers, as they have been using our guidance to prepare their businesses for reopening over a number of weeks.
This week, we called on the governments of the UK and devolved nations to reclassify vape stores as essential retail, allowing them to reopen as soon as they can satisfy themselves that they do so safely both for their customers and employees. Failing that, to provide immediate clarification to the independent vaping industry and its customers that stores will be included in the first wave of those allowed to reopen. Providing this clarity will allow businesses to prepare for, and for customers to adapt to, the necessary new shopping practices.
We also wrote to local Directors of Public Health across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, asking that they indicate their support for this reclassification as a matter of urgency. While the IBVTA is aware of the Government’s plan to allow non-essential retail businesses in England to reopen from June 1st, every day that goes by where a proportion of vapers return to smoking because of easier product access is a day lost.
Furthermore we hold very real concerns that many “bricks and mortar” vape businesses have already suffered sufficient loss of regular custom to find the end of the current lockdown challenging. It is likely that a “second peak” with another lockdown later in the year would force many businesses to close entirely, removing an important service that has been enjoyed by so many that have successfully quit smoking.