This week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the third lockdown in England, which started this week and will last until around mid-February. In Johnson’s fourth address since the pandemic began, he said that the new strain of the coronavirus is between 50% and 70% more transmissible, which makes the situation “frustrating and alarming.”
The UK fully endorses the use of vapes as smoking cessation and/or harm reduction tools, and it is a well known fact that the pressures brought about by the pandemic are leading to a lot of smoking relapses. To this effect, public health experts have been pointing out that closing vape shops at this time is particularly nonsensical. Only last October, the government-funded campaign – Stoptober, was urging smokers to quit cigarettes by switching to vaping.
“Only last month the Government-backed Stoptober campaign was encouraging smokers to quit, including through taking up vaping. Those who took up the challenge during the month now do not have access to the same level of support and products from their local vape stores. We will be making these points strongly to the government on behalf of the industry and asking them to reconsider their stance on vape stores and reclassify them as essential in future,” argued John Dunne, Director General of the UKVIA last November, ahead of the 2nd lockdown.
It’s about providing a lifeline to vapers, not just the industry
Dunne is voicing this concern once again, saying that during this period many smokers have made New Year’s resolutions to quit, and access to the customer service, experience, knowledge, and advice that is offered in vape stores, is vitally important especially during lockdown. “It’s not just about providing a lifeline to vape businesses during lockdown, but also to vapers and smokers for whom vaping represents a life-changing decision.”
“Whilst we fully recognise the need for this latest lockdown, as the COVID-19 situation worsens across many parts of the country, the vaping industry should be seen as a sector which provides essential goods and services.”
“We must remember that earlier this year Public Health England acknowledged the contribution played by vaping in helping smokers quit. The Royal College of Physicians also found that e-cigarettes are effective in helping people to stop smoking. Recent research has again highlighted that vape products are much more effective than NRTs in helping smokers give up,” said Dunne.
Recent UK studies indicating that access to vapes helps smokers quit
Ironically, a recent local study published in Plos One, aimed to determine the feasibility of distributing e-cigarettes to smokers attending homeless centres in Britain, with the aim of improving their health and ease the financial burden of purchasing cigarettes. “Providing an e-cigarette starter kit to smokers experiencing homelessness was associated with reasonable recruitment and retention rates and promising evidence of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness,” concluded the researchers.
Similarly, an earlier UK study analysing whether supplying smokers wishing to quit with free e-cigarettes was effective at helping them achieve their goal, had positive results. “On the basis of these results, there may be value in smoking cessation services and other services ensuring that smokers are provided with e-cigarettes at zero or minimal costs for at least a short period of time.”
In light of these findings, and the fact that local authorities and health entities themselves, endorse the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, it is perplexing that vape shops are being considered non-essential. This certainly sends the wrong message to the public by going against all the ongoing efforts at promoting the products as smoking cessation tools.