Yesterday the UK Vaping Industry Association wrote to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Small Business Minister Paul Scully and Public Health Minister Jo Churchill following the weekend’s announcement of a second national lockdown. Copy of the letter can be found below:
Dear Secretary of State,
The COVID-19 crisis has affected every part of our economy and for many will be one of the most challenging times we can remember. The UK Vaping Industry Association is thankful for the tremendous efforts that the Government has made so far to protect jobs and keep individuals safe.
We write to you today to urge that due consideration be given to the vital role the vaping sector plays in communities throughout the UK, both from an economic and public health perspective.
Our simple ask is that you consider reclassifying vape shops as essential outlets for both the forthcoming lockdown and any subsequent lockdowns thereafter as they are doing in such countries as France and Germany where new tougher restrictions are also being imposed. Whilst we are incredibly proud of the responsible approach that our members have taken during this difficult time by continuing to provide online services where stores cannot otherwise open, physical vape retail outlets are equally crucial as smokers and vapers rely on the specialist advice that they receive at these shops.
According to the ONS, the UK is home to around 7 million adult smokers. Data also shows that currently around 3.2 million people vape in Great Britain. Combined, online and physical stores not only play a critical role in helping adult smokers to switch to a less harmful alternative where they cannot quit, but also helping those who have made the switch, to remain off cigarettes.
With vape stores remaining closed for a length of time and without access to their vaping supplies, many vapers and ex-smokers will be at risk of relapse back to smoking at these stressful times. Furthermore, during the lockdown more families of smokers will be exposed to second-hand smoke, so it is even more vital to provide smokers with access to a far less harmful alternative.
Smoking kills 80,000 people a year in England, equivalent to 220 a day so it’s key to get current smokers to quit and ensure former smokers do not take it up again and this is where vaping can have a positive and significant impact.
Indeed, Public Health England has acknowledged the contribution played by vaping in helping smokers quit and recent research has again highlighted that vape products are much more effective than NRTs in helping smokers give up. We note that individuals may continue shopping for alcohol in off licences, which don’t appear to be on the non-essential shop closure list, but does not allow them to buy vape products – which according to PHE are at least 95% less harmful than conventional cigarettes – or gain specialist advice in their vape store that can help them to quit smoking.
Vape retail stores are fully prepared to be compliant with social distancing measures and do not deal with high volumes of traffic like other outlets. 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 will now not have access to the same level of support and products from their local vape stores.
Economically, as I am sure you will know, vaping has been a UK plc success story and has supported the high street through the challenging environment experienced in recent years. Ongoing closure of vape shops, which in our opinion are providing an essential service to current vapers and existing smokers, would be hugely detrimental to the sector’s contribution to the national economy and the health of the nation.
As mentioned, we understand how busy you will be at this current time but we hope that you take on board our views above. We would, of course, be happy to discuss this matter further if this were helpful.
I am copying this letter to Jo Churchill MP, Minister for Public Health and Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Businesses.
Director General, UK Vaping Industry Association