Industry Raises Important Questions Over What Should Be Deemed Essential During A Crisis
An unfolding pandemic centered around a novel strain of coronavirus has brought the entire world to a screeching halt. As businesses are ordered to temporarily shutter as a means of helping to slow the spread of the outbreak, questions are being raised over what should be deemed essential and allowed to continue operating.
Denver has recently been placed under a stay-at-home order by its mayor in response to the ongoing crisis. While exemptions have been made for dispensaries and liquor stores as essential retail allowed to keep operating, vape shops have been excluded despite the public health promise it provides.
Members of the vaping industry and community within the city and broader state have expressed concern and disappointment with the exclusion. They note that if alcohol and recreational marijuana are essential, helping adults quit and remain off, tobacco should be as well.
The mayor’s office has defended the decision and hasn’t announced any plans to allow an exemption for such outlets. The office cites determinations by other agencies that deemed vape shops to be nonessential, and note the lack of public demand compared to alcohol and recreational marijuana.
On March 24th, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued a public health notice for the city. This included an explicit “stay at home” directive for its citizens, which temporarily shutters any businesses deemed nonessential by the administration.
While exemptions have been made for liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries, which have been deemed essential for the continuation of society, a similar exemption has not been made for vape shops. This has left the industry fuming over the decision, stating that helping adults quit and remain off of tobacco is more essential to society than pot and booze.
“If alcohol and recreational marijuana are essential services, we believe that responsible adult vaping consumption is an essential service, too,” Amanda Wheeler, vice president of the Rocky Mountain Smoke Free Alliance, said in a statement. “This is a health issue, as many of our customers are former combustible cigarette smokers looking for a healthier alternative to smoking. When you take away that option, it has real health implications.”
The mayor’s office issued its own statement in response to these criticisms, stating that “vape shops were determined by the City Attorney’s Office and Denver Public Health and Environment to not be an essential business during this public health emergency,” spokesman Michael Strott stated in an email. “Public demand also factored into the decision by public health officials to exempt liquor stores and retail marijuana shops — as evidenced by the unsafe numbers of people who gathered in lines at those businesses, but not vape shops.”
Vaping is essential to providing addiction management for those currently hooked on nicotine, being a proven smoking cessation aid, as well as a reduced harm alternative to tobacco. Restricting access to vapor products during these trying times may lead to a myriad of public health consequences that would exhaust an already overwhelmed healthcare system.
A study from the University of Louisville found that vaping was more effective than any other form of smoking cessation, even including prescription options such as Chantix. Another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that vaping was more effective than any other nicotine-replacement therapy in helping adults quit and remain off of tobacco.
Studies from Public Health England and the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center each found that 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 in their lifetimes when compared to smokers.
Exemptions for liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries, but not vape shops, shines a critical light on the priorities of lawmakers and the undue influence of industry even in times of a crisis. Careful, thought-out decisions need to be made on a committee level as to what is deemed essential to society and the public at large, and not the snap judgment of a politician.
The mayor’s decision was not based on the interest of public health, but rather the lobbying interests and political clout of organizations representing big tobacco, as well as the liquor and cannabis industries. This prioritizing of capitalism not only has major public health ramifications but significant economic ones as well.
Members of the vaping community must stand in support with the industry to help show lawmakers how essential vaping is to public health and society at large. A concerted campaign of civic engagement and public discourse may help shift any negative stigmas and perceptions surrounding vaping.
What are your thoughts regarding Mayor Hancock’s exclusion of vape shops from the list of businesses deemed to be essential? Do you believe Vaping is an essential service necessary for the continuation of society and public health? We would love to hear from you in the comments below, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive all the latest vaping news!
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