In Select Jurisdictions, Vape Shops Are Being Ruled An Essential Retail Service To Help Maintain Society
The 2019-2020 global coronavirus pandemic has gripped the entire world and brought it to a standstill. Throughout the world, businesses are being forced to voluntarily or involuntarily shutter to help contain the spread of the outbreak, with exceptions being made for outlets deemed to be essential retail services necessary for maintaining society.
Various vaping industry organizations have been successfully lobbying lawmakers to include vape shops among the outlets exempted. They note the public health benefits that vaping provides and the exemptions currently made for retailers such as tobacconists, dispensaries, and liquor stores.
Vaping has been demonstrated to provide several public health benefits, such as successfully aiding millions in smoking cessation and being a reduced harm alternative to smoking. Industry groups argue that these benefits alone should allow an exemption for vape shops, alongside a litany of perfectly valid claims.
These organizations are concerned that forcing vape shops to close may force those addicted to nicotine back toward smoking, higher nicotine vapor products at exempt retailers, or even black market options. They’ve also raised concerns about the potential additional strain such moves may place on an already overwhelmed healthcare system.
Industry representative bodies such as the UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) and Canadian Vaping Association (CVA) have been petitioning, in some cases successfully, their local governments to allow exemptions for vape shops to remain open as an essential retail service in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic. They note a variety of public health concerns and consequences that may occur from such a sudden and dramatic restriction of vapor products to those currently addicted to nicotine.
Italy has already allowed for such an exemption, following lobbying by a renowned harm reduction expert who pointed out the flagrant hypocrisy in allowing exemptions for tobacconists but shuttering vape shops. There are also concerns about an increase in smoking rates, particularly indoors and in other confined spaces given the nature of various lockdowns associated with the pandemic.
Vape shop closures may exacerbate the current public health crisis by turning millions of those currently addicted to nicotine back toward smoking or even black market options. The consequences associated with such a dramatic shift may further burden an already overwhelmed healthcare system.
It is interesting to note that these individuals and organizations have been successfully making their pleas without even noting the major economic ramifications that would come with shuttering vape shops. Not allowing such an exemption would force thousands of vaping retailers to close their doors for good, sending an already struggling industry into outright freefall.
Vaping is an essential service providing addiction management for those currently hooked on nicotine. Restricting access to vapor products may lead to a series of dramatic public health consequences that would exhaust an already overburdened healthcare system.
Vaping is not only a demonstrated smoking cessation aid but a proven reduced harm alternative to tobacco as well. Research is constantly emerging that highlights both the promise and proven potential that vaping can provide public health and the public at large.
Research from the University of Louisville found that vaping was more effective than any other form of smoking cessation, including prescription options and going cold-turkey. Another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that vaping was more effective than any other nicotine-replacement therapy in not only helping adults quit smoking but stay tobacco-free.
Research from Public Health England and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center determined vaping is actually 95% and 93% safer than smoking, respectively. Another study, published in the Journal of Aerosol Sciences, found that vapers face a staggering 57,000 times lower risk of developing cancer compared to smokers.
Vape shops remaining open during the onset of this pandemic highlight the dilemma between taking precautions for the greater good of humanity, against concerns over an individual’s health and the public health consequences potentially associated with them. While arguments for self-quarantining are sound, individuals are better off visiting smaller specialty outlets rather than larger retailers should they need to go out at all.
The industry has taken a number of proactive precautions to help mitigate the spread of the virus, such as implementing strict social-distancing policies and limiting the number of occupants allowed inside an outlet at any given time. In doing so, vape shops hope that they’re striking a balance between looking out for public safety while also continuing to support public health.
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