In many countries and a number of US jurisdictions, vape businesses have been deemed non-essential, and required to temporarily close their brick and mortar shops. This has led many vapers, most of whom are former smokers using e-cigarettes in a bid to stay away from cigarettes, fear that they will be unable to obtain the products.

A 2019 study found that vape shops play an important role in tobacco harm reduction, and that their potential could be increased “if their service model were to extend to help smokers to quit.”
A 2019 study had indeed indicated that vape shops play a key role in supporting smokers who switch to safer alternatives. Titled, “‘I Felt Welcomed in Like They’re a Little Family in There, I Felt Like I Was Joining a Team or Something’: Vape Shop Customers’ Experiences of E-Cigarette Use, Vape Shops and the Vaping Community,” this research aimed to understand customers’ experiences of vape shops, and the extent to which smoking cessation advice is and should be provided in these outlets.

The researchers conducted telephone interviews with 22 customers recruited in vape shops in the East Midlands region of England, exploring the participants’ smoking histories, reasons for using e-cigarettes, the role of vape shops in their e-cigarette use, and whether smoking cessation was discussed in vape shops.

The compiled responses indicated that respondents regarded e-cigarettes as a quitting tool and reported very positive experiences of vaping. The participants also found vape shops critical to their positive experiences, in that they provided access to a wide variety of high-quality products and reliable product information and advice.

This had led the researchers to the conclusion that vape shops play an important role in tobacco harm reduction, and that their potential could be increased “if their service model were to extend to help smokers to quit.”

Vape shops deemed “non-essential”

With regards to the current lockdown, in most cases ironically cigarettes remain widely available in stores deemed essential such as convenience stores, while liquor stores have also been allowed to remain open. However, many vape stores have been limited to selling their products online, and this is proving to be a stumbling block for many, such as the older generation who are technologically illiterate.

Additionally, the small independent vape stores (who tend to have harm reduction at heart) are struggling to remain afloat. Being restricted to online sales, leaves them susceptible to fierce competition from larger online vendors.

Reopening vape shops in some EU countries

Meanwhile in Europe, some countries have allowed vape shops to remain open, while others such as France, Spain and Italy, had initially closed them but have now allowed them to reopen. In Italy, award winning Dr. Riccardo Polosa explained why it would be ridiculous to keep tobacconists open whilst closing outlets that sell safer alternatives.

“..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 the professor.

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