In 2018, Alex Cunningham told then Public Health Minister Steve Brine that vaping could “utilised to achieve the targets set out.” He added that it was safer than tobacco and “should be used to support smokers with mental health conditions.”
The message hit home, and Brine promised that the government would make more of an effort to ensure smokers were informed about vaping’s relative safety. [link]
Recently, Cunningham has been lobbying the government about vape shops being forced to close as part of the measures to combat COVID-19.
Writing a letter to the Secretary of State, Alex said that bricks and mortar stores were essential in ensuring that ex-smokers without access to (or a fear of) the internet needed this access to prevent them from returning to smoking.
“Whilst there are some shops that remain open which sell the liquids for vaping products, these tend to be in smaller amounts and as a result can be more expensive. It is still possible to order products online, but not everybody is able to confidently use the internet to make purchases, and there can be longer delays through the post,” wrote Cunningham.
“Although an extra few days wait for the liquids may not seem like much, it is enough time for someone to choose the available option of cigarettes rather than not have having nicotine products for several days."
“As long as these shops are following the rules on social distancing, and operating strict procedures like other shops are doing, we should ensure that people can still pick the healthier option in life, including with e-cigarettes.”
He highlighted that vape shops have been closed, whereas Off Licences remain open. Ian Hamilton, lecturer in Mental Health at the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, recently said: “There is only one group that absolutely requires alcohol: alcoholics. For those with alcohol dependencies, any abrupt disruption to their intake could be deadly; for the rest of us, alcohol is a luxury. Why, then, has the government made it essential?”
Given the addictive quality posed by cigarettes, Alex Cunningham’s argument is powerful and compelling.
Research has shown that older people fear shopping online, worried about making mistakes during the order process, and harbour concerns over not being able to work out if they are being scammed [link]. These people more than any other deserve the right of access to reduced harm products.