Industry insiders have called for vape stores to be classed as essential outlets as all non-essential shops in England are ordered to close for a month under the new national restrictions to fight the second wave of COVID-19.
The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has written to business secretary Alok Sharma, small business minister Paul Scully and minister for public health Jo Churchill, warning that the closure of vape shops “would be hugely detrimental to the sector’s contribution to the national economy and the health of the nation”.
The letter says: “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.”
The vaping industry believes that physical vape retail outlets “are equally crucial” as smokers and vapers rely on the specialist advice they receive at these shops. “Furthermore,” the letter adds, “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.”
Store chain’s dire forecast
The UKVIA says vape shops are compliant with social distancing measures and points out that they do not deal with the large numbers of people some other retail outlets serve.
The UK’s largest vape store chain, VPZ, forecast that vaping sales could fall by between 45% and 50% during the four-week closure, representing a real challenge for the sector.
“As people prepare for the Christmas shopping period, and annual Black Friday events, the situation could conceivably be even worse,” VPZ director Doug Mutter said. “Coming off the back of Stoptober, when many smokers will be continuing their efforts to quit cigarettes, it is vital vaping is not taken away from them.”
John Dunne, UKVIA director general, told ECigInteligence that the vaping industry had already proved to be resilient over recent months and is now expected to do the same over the next few weeks.
The roughly 3,000 vape stores across the country reopened in mid-June after the first ten-week lockdown.
What This Means: The UK vaping industry is now in discussions with health officials to explore all options for granting consumer access to harm reduction supplies.
As non-essential retailers, vape stores in England will only be allowed to use home delivery or click-and-collect services. During the first lockdown these services helped businesses to ease the impact on sales, but it is yet to be seen how consumers will behave this time.
– Antonia di Lorenzo ECigIntelligence contributing writer
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