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Lockdown Beneficiaries

While millions lost out through lockdown, be it financially or emotionally, one group won out: Big Tobacco

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Statistical projections being waved by Action on Smoking and Health may have pointed to an increase in people attempting to quit smoking during lockdown but this had no impact on tobacco company share values. The situation in the United Kingdom has been mirrored throughout Europe.

Back in May, the United Kingdom was promised a “world-beating track and trace programme” by Prime Minister Johnson. It came towards the end of a lockdown period [lockdown timeline] that saw almost all vape stores forced to close [link], with just those operating within hospitals remaining open.

Despite the restriction on vape services by providers of the one product that has done more to combat smoking addiction over the last decade than any other approach, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH UK) claimed, “at least 300,000 people have quit smoking successfully, a further 550,000 have tried to quit and 2.4 million have cut down on the amount of cigarettes they smoke due to growing concerns around COVID-19”. [link]

Staunch anti-vape campaigners spewed baseless rhetoric about the danger of nicotine use and vaping, while genuine experts laid out the fact that science demonstrated fewer vapers and smokers were presenting at hospital with severe COVID symptoms – although those who did tended to have worse outcomes. [link]

It took the government until June to finally issue its official position on vaping during the pandemic [link]. For those who do not use online outlets, the choice appeared simple: quit vaping or return to smoking, as cigarettes remained on sale.

Unsurprisingly, the market didn’t recognize ASH UK’s claims and investors moved large sums into business sectors delivering the best returns during these fractious times. Gold and utility stocks were snapped up, panic buying in supermarkets had investors sending supermarket shares soaring – and money poured into the tobacco sector.

By last week, British American Tobacco had risen by 74p to 2699p, and Imperial Brands ramped 26p to 1367p. The figures stand in stark contrast to the gains made in the supermarket sector (Ocado 44p to 2847p and Sainsbury’s 2.8p to 199.6p).

Performance figures and fears of a second round of lockdowns lay behind similar investment movement in Europe too.

As Prime Minister Johnson was instructing everyone to return to working from home and ordering bars and restaurants to adopt a 10pm curfew, European markets invested in Big Tobacco too.

Economist Holger Schmieding said: “Many such measures will hit parts of consumer spending (mostly services such as leisure, entertainment, tourism) disproportionately. We expect these measures to temporarily dampen but not derail the overall economic rebound.”

As conversation revolve around the possibility of stricter national measures being put into play again, it is vital the government learns the lesson from its previous error – vape shops must remain open. As John Dunne, UK Vaping Industry Association Director, said in March: “The UK vaping industry, including retail outlets, online stores, manufacturers and compliance specialists, has a vital role to play in communities across the country, both from an economic and public health perspective and we want the Government to recognise this in their response to the unprecedented challenge we face.”


  • Quitting For Covid, POTV – [link]
  • COVID, Smoking, and Vaping, POTV – [link]
  • UK Government’s position, POTV – [link]
Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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