In an open letter to Nadhim Zahawi, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, small business minister Paul Scully and minister for prevention, public health and primary care, Jo Churchill, the UKVIA referred to the situation in Italy, where despite the alarming rate of contagion, the government has reversed its decision to close vape stores.
Originally, vape shops were included in the list of outlets to be closed, however award winning Dr. Riccardo Polosa spoke up explaining why keeping tobacconists open, whilst closing outlets that sell safer alternatives would prove counterproductive. “I got a little bit cross. And the next morning I launched a number of declarative statements,” said Polosa.
Founder of the Center of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction (CoEHAR) in Catania Italy, Polosa has published dozens of studies on topics related to vaping. He pointed out that in this situation of particularly high anxiety and stress, people will smoke even more than usual, and at home, where they are confined hence exposing not only themselves, but also their families to the risks of tobacco smoke.
If vape shops close, former smokers will revert back to smoking
Moreover, said the professor, most vapers are former smokers. In the event that vaping products are no longer available for purchase, it is very highly likely that these would resort back to smoking.
“Most importantly, hundreds of thousands of vapers would have been at risk of gatewaying back to smoking. It was an issue of public health in my opinion. Also, many vapers with respiratory diseases have seen a curtailment of their symptoms by vaping, and by stopping vaping we would have seen a rise in acute exacerbation in respiratory disease. This would have been extremely detrimental to the national health system at a time when you have ICU beds occupied and not available for anything else,” said Polosa.
The UKVIA commends Italy’s stance
In a press release, the UKVIA referred to Polosa’s efforts, and is urging the UK government to follow the example of Italian authorities. “We recognise and support the government’s intensified containment plan for the virus, but would urge you and your colleagues to look at the example of Italy.”
“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.This could be dangerous from a public health perspective and could heighten the risk of exposure of tobacco smoke to bystanders during the crisis, including families and children. It could also place a further burden on an already overstretched health system,” added the agency.
The UKVIA is also reminding the British government to support the millions of vapers across the country, so that those who are in self-isolation and/or living in remote areas, are not forced to revert back to smoking. “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,” said UKVIA director, John Dunne.
“In particular, if vape shops were to close it would mean that smokers and vapers would not have access to specialist advice. Keeping the vaping sector open for business is also crucial to meeting the government’s target for England to be smoke-free by 2030.”