The Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) today released a policy paper in response to an undercover investigation that has seemingly identified that nine out of ten vape shops are knowingly selling to non-smokers. The basis of this 'news' is found in the IBVTA Code of Conduct with focus on item three:
Vape products are for current or former smokers and existing users of vaping devices, therefore never knowingly sell to anyone who is not a current or former smoker, or a current vaper.
The IBVTA have guidelines for their own members, however it is not known or clear if the shops that were involved in this undercover investigation are members of the IBVTA. The demands made by the RSPH are not made of tobacco or alcohol, it's bizarre to request them of e-cigarette shops & comes across as unnecessary meddling. 97% of vapers are current or ex-smokers & vaping's role as a preventative measure against relapse or starting smoking has to be considered.
There is still no evidence of vaping leading to smoking, & it's being monitored closely in the UK, so there's not a problem that needs solving here. It's an age restricted & legal product so personal, probing questions risk further stigmatising smokers.
Vaping is not smoking & should not ever suffer more arduous regulations than smoked tobacco. Not feeling like you are using a medicine is a large part of the appeal, potential vapers do not need vetting.
It's important to remember that vaping is an alternative to smoking that is at least 95% safer. The vast majority of vapers are current or ex smokers and the number of vapers who have never smoked is vanishingly small. Vapour products are appealing alternatives, not only for those people who currently smoke but also for those who might otherwise take up smoking in the future. Adults must be permitted to make informed choices otherwise we risk infantilising them. We do not expect tobacconists to ask adults whether they've ever smoked before, why would we hold vape retailers to higher standards?
This is disappointing from RSPH who do embrace the huge harm reduction potential of vaping, but seem to misunderstand the power of it being a consumer product. We must not stigmatise vaping as we do smoking & by extension NRT.