8. Retailing – who should sell and under what conditions?
8.1 Where should e-cigarettes and other reduced-risk products be sold and not sold?
Alternatives to cigarettes should be at least as widely available as cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products. It makes no sense to withdraw the much safer nicotine products from certain retail environments while leaving cigarettes in place. Of course, a government cannot force retailers it does not own to stock particular product lines, but it should not use its powers or influence to make cigarettes more available in some environments. In addition, there is a case for making effective alternatives available in settings where there may be an opportunity for behaviour change – for example, in hospital shops.
8.2 Should e-cigarettes be available only through pharmacies or on prescription or over-the-counter everywhere?
No. They should be available everywhere cigarettes are – convenience stores, petrol stations, supermarkets – and more besides. The alternatives to smoking need to be just as easy to access as the harmful incumbent product, cigarettes. It is important not to place barriers in the way of easy access: if people cannot access them easily there is less chance they will try and more chance they will fail and relapse back to smoking. Vape shops are especially important as they combined diverse personalised product options with expert advice – offering what amounts to a smoking cessation service. Vaping products are now available in some hospital shops in England – this is to encourage patients, visitors and staff to try a permanent switch from smoking.
8.3 Should vaping products be available on-line?
Yes. Particularly in areas of sparse population, specialist vape shops selling diverse products would not be viable (the inventory costs would be too high) and many people also like the convenience and wide choice of online shopping and bargain hunting. Again, this is an area where vaping can and should outcompete smoking. Online sales present barriers to youth access through the requirement to make card payments and stronger systems of age verification are possible in some jurisdictions.