During this strange time we have all been asked to only focus on the essentials, and all non-essential shops have been shut, including E-cigarette shops. But for many smokers who have made the switch to e-cigarettes their e-cigarette refills are essential.
With vape shops shut down many ex-smokers who have successfully moved away from cigarettes are in danger of slipping back into their old ways. In a recent blog we talked about how the Health Secretary, charities and doctors have all said that smoking can be dangerous during the lockdown, and that every smoker should consider quitting. But with the vape shops closed a key service that can help them finally get off cigarettes has been shut.
What makes this even odder is that for years now the UK government, through their Public Health England agency, have said that e-cigarettes are at least 95% less harmful than cigarettes, so why are the shops that are built to get people off cigarettes and onto a much better alternative being shut?
In Italy and other European countries they have already gone through this, and perhaps by looking at what happened there, we can see what helps.
VAPE SHOPS OPEN IN ITALY
On March 11th Italy was put into full lock-down, with only the essential shops staying open. Strangely enough tobacconists were included in this essential list, while Vape and E-cigarette shops weren’t.
This put ex-smokers who were using e-cigarettes in an odd position, as the government seemed to be allowing the use of cigarettes but actively discouraging the use of e-cigarettes, even though E-cigarettes have been proven to be much better than the alternative!
Dr Riccardo Polosa - a world-renowned scientist and researcher on vaping and tobacco harm reduction, thought the same thing. He highlighted the fact that although tobacconists still remained open and were considered essential, those choosing to vape had the option taken away from them.
To put that in perspective, over 1 million people in Italy alone use E-cigarettes, and this lock-down suddenly put them in danger of slipping back into smoking.
What makes this more bizarre is the fact that the Italian government obviously thought that people would need to access to nicotine to get through this difficult time, but completely forgot about all those e-cigarette users who had made the switch to a less harmful alternative.
Dr Riccardo Polosa went on to say; “It was an issue of public health… by stopping vaping we would have seen a rise in acute exacerbation in respiratory disease”. By cutting off vapers from their e-cigarette refills the Italian government was indirectly causing people to go back to smoking and perhaps put more pressure on a national health system that was already dealing with other matters.
The great news for Italian e-cigarette users though was that the doctor’s protest worked, and 2 days later on March 13th Vape shops were allowed to re-open.
Though the Italian situation is perhaps the most dramatic, other countries such as Spain and France have also kept their Vape and E-cigarette shops so that vapers can keep themselves away from cigarettes.
WHAT CAN THIS SAY ABOUT UK VAPE SHOPS?
In the UK the situation is slightly different, as tobacconists are not on the essential list of shops allowed to remain open, but neither are E-cigarette shops.
Another key difference between the UK and Italy is the number of ex-smokers using e-cigarettes, in Italy there are just over 1 million while in the UK more than 3.6 million people use e-cigarettes.
Though online orders are available right now for e-cigarettes, for many of the 3.6 million people ordering using the internet is not possible.
The biggest issue is of course with closing down vape shops is these 3.6 million e-cigarette users taking up smoking again, and so putting more strain onto an already overloaded health care system. As we mentioned in our blog about quitting smoking in the lock-down, smokers are much more likely to be affected by illnesses due to a lower immune system and the damage to their lungs from cigarette smoke. It seems irresponsible to allow cigarettes to be easilly bought, but e-cigarettes are made more difficult.
A good point Dr Riccardo Polosa rose was the fact that due to the stress of the current lock down many people are smoking more. Normally many of these smokers would be taking themselves outside to smoke, but with the lockdown more people will be smoking indoors causing a huge spike in 2nd and 3rd hand smoke. This can yet again lead to having to deal with respiratory infections, ear infections and more frequent asthma attacks, for those effected by 2nd hand smoke none of which helps the NHS.
There may be a rise of cigarette smokers again which also dashes the UK’s plans to become smoke free by 2030.
This could all be stopped, or at least lessened dramatically by keeping e-cigarette shops open. Not only would vapers be able to get their e-cigarette refills but wouldn’t be tempted to fall back to cigarettes. As the NHS says, vapour from e-cigarettes isn’t harmful, so even if an e-cigarette user does user their device in the house they won’t be effecting anyone else.
If Vape shops are open then there could also be a chance to get more smokers off cigarettes, and further reduce the strain on the NHS! By making the switch the smoker would be getting rid of the 4000+ chemicals and 50+ carcinogens found in cigarettes and can start the process of letting their body heal.
At the moment supermarkets, which readily sell cigarettes and are only just starting to sell e-cigarettes, are right now the only places to get nicotine. This means that ex-smokers will have ready access to their old harmful vice but not e-cigarettes as many places don’t sell the type and model of e-cigarette needed.
By suggesting ex-smokers go into the constantly busy supermarkets you are also asking people to put themselves at more risk. On the flip side anyone who has been into an E-cigarette shop will be able to tell you that they are normally much quieter and less packed than your average supermarket and so pose much less risk.
Not having Vape shops open in the UK is causing more people to flock to supermarkets and perhaps falling back to cigarettes, which in our opinion definitely qualifies as an “issue of public health” as the good doctor said before.
VAPE SHOPS HELPING WITH MONEY CONCERNS
Though the health issues around keeping the e-cigarette shops open are paramount, let us not forget that for many people their budget is also extremely important right now. Cigarettes are an expensive habit to have, with one pack of 20 cigarettes costing £10 at least.
If those smokers who are buying 1 pack of cigarettes a day switched to e-cigarettes they could save them up to 80%, which even will really add up. To put this in perspective, 1 of our e-cigarette refills has about 30 cigarettes worth of nicotine in, and at most costs £2. If that smoker made the switch to e-cigarettes they would be saving £8 a day, and over just two months they would save £480!
We believe that by keeping vape shops open they can provide an essential service during this time. Vape shops will keep people off the cigarettes by providing their refills and get smokers to finally move away from cigarettes. By switching to e-cigarettes smokers can help themselves, the people around them and perhaps reduce the strain a little bit on the NHS during this time.