As the Covid 19 pandemic has spread we have seen some of the most stringent restrictions imposed on a population, outside of wartime. Closure of pubs, schools, sporting events. Banning gatherings and the abandonment of once immovable annual events like the Eurovision.
It is essential that all of us follow the advice of government and health departments, keeping ‘social distance’ and minimising leaving our homes.
These are stressful times and today further restrictions, closing all non-essential retail and business has been announced. We at the NNA Ireland recognise the necessity of these measures but hope the government recognises the role vape shops have to play in helping fight this virus. It is important that people who have quit smoking and remain smoke-free by using low risk nicotine products continue to do so at this time. We do not need any further complications adding to the current crisis. In times of stress, people may be tempted to return to smoking, especially if their regular supply of vape products becomes difficult to access. Italy was first to include vape shops as essential services during the lockdown. “I think it is wrong to deprive smokers of the possibility of switching to less harmful [products] and even more unfair to let thousands of vapers move to smoke. We must guarantee access to alternative tools to quit smoking” said Dr Riccardo Polosa, founder of the Center of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction(CoEHAR) in Catania, Italy.
“I couldn’t agree more.” said Dr John Madden, retired GP and NNA Ireland trustee, “Cigarettes will continue to be readily available from supermarkets and corner shops so it is essential that vape shops stay open, it would be a shame, if when this crisis is over, there was seen to be a rise in the amount of people smoking.”
Dr Garrett McGovern, addiction specialist with the Priority Medical Clinic said “The emergence of COVID-19 has put an undue strain on an already overburdened health service. We need to encourage as many people as possible to make attempts to stop smoking (the effects of which could lead to a heightened risk of death in people with COVID-19). No impediments should be put in the way of smokers who want to, or have already, quit using e-cigarettes. The recent reports of e-cigs increasing the severity of COVID-19 infection is without foundation and is not helpful to smokers who are trying to stop“
Some vaping products are sold by supermarkets but the range is limited, as they usually cater to only a small proportion of the vaping market. Online sales may be available but as not everyone is online this will leave some without access.
Vape shops tend to be small with low customer turnover, managing sensible social distancing can be easily arranged with a rope queuing system and recommended distance markers. Not only will this help current vapers continue access but it will reduce demand on supermarkets. Italy, France and Greece have all acknowledged the role vape shops play and have included them as ‘vital services’ not enforcing closure. Ireland has seen the largest reduction is smoking prevalence in the last 5 years, now is not the time to risk that progress by making it harder to stay smoke free.
We hope everyone stays well and stays smoke-free. We know how essential vaping is to that and we hope the government also recognise this.