“E-cigarette makers, vaping stores, vaping forums and vapers are the new frontline in helping people switch from smoking. It is an example of public health objectives being delivered without the involvement of public health professionals” –Professor Gerry Stimson. Smoking in the UK is declining rapidly– faster than any other country in the world. Since 2016, the proportion of current smokers has fallen significantly to 15.1% of the population. Figures also show that during the same period, the number of smokers turning to the NHS stop smoking clinics also dropped by over 15%. Traditional stop smoking clinics are currently costing the taxpayer around £100 million per year, a lot of money for very little in return. If these clinics were private businesses, the downward spiral of customers would have forced them to close. E-cigarettes are now the most popular method of quitting smoking in England and most of them are purchased in specialist vape shops. Vape shops are becoming a significant presence on UK high streets while other retailers, particularly grocers, newsagents and electrical goods stores are in sharp decline. According to a survey funded by Cancer Research UK, vape shop staff have a huge part to play in getting smokers to switch to vaping. With the rise of the high street vape shop and the decline of the NHS Stop Smoking Services, it’s no wonder experts in smoking cessation are suggesting that the vaping industry teams up with the NHS to develop an e-cig that could be made available on prescription. This was one of the recommendations in a report on e-cigs by a House of Commons committee in August 2018. Norman Lamb, the chair of the committee said “If used correctly, e-cigarettes could be a key weapon in the NHS’s stop-smoking arsenal.” For many smokers, vape shops are an easy to access, non-medical source of advice and support. But no matter how knowledgeable or passionate the owner or the staff are, vape shops are first and foremost private businesses. They are not funded by the government and the bottom line is that they need to make money. There’s obviously more profit in a 200w full kit than in a CE4, but shops should also ensure they stock good range of starter kits and higher level nicotine e-liquids. Vape shops need to be attracting beginners as well as more experienced vapers, but the truth is that vape shops can be intimidating to some people. Women in particular are easily put off by what they see as masculine territories, where bearded blokes gather together to discuss mods and coils. I think that in general, vape shops should also make more effort to employ female staff. Older people too (who might be very unsure of making the switch to vaping) can easily feel intimidated by the atmosphere in many vape shops. Being hit by a wall of vapour as soon as they set foot inside can be really off-putting for a lot of older folk. In spite of those minor gripes, reputable, ethical vape shops remain the best place for smokers to get sound advice about switching from smoking to vaping. The Cancer Research survey acknowledges the vital role played by vape shops and how crucial they are to smoking cessation here in the UK. A very good vape shop employee can be better than a trained smoking cessation counsellor. No taxpayers’ money has been spent, yet smokers are stopping, switching and cutting down just by visiting their local vape shop. All this has happened against a background of vaping scare stories in the media and strict regulation of the industry. Since the introduction of the TPD, vaping firms and their employees have been unable to advertise their products or make any health claims for vaping. In the words of Fraser Cropper from the Independent British Vape Trade Association “to tie a hand behind our back and not allow us to be able to promote our products, to seize even more of those smokers out of the hands of the tobacco businesses, does not make sense.” The only role of government should be to endorse the use of e-cigarettes and to reassure the public of their safety- not to create obstacles to their use. It’s vapers and vape shops who are now leading smoking cessation in the UK. Vapable’s new discount vaping outlet is now open to customers. Come along and visit us to find a great range of e-liquids, concentrates and hardware for all your vaping needs.