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Background: Due to the Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Belgian government set out a range of measures to prevent the spread of the virus. One measure included closing all non-food shops, including vape shops. Methods: A retrospective online questionnaire was used to investigate the impact of closing the vape shops on the vaping and/or smoking behavior of current vapers. Results: The sample (n = 202) reached consisted of 70% exclusive vapers, 29% dual users and 1% no-product users. Over half (55%, 112/202) of participants needed to buy e-liquid during the lockdown, with a small majority being able to buy e-liquids – mostly with their usual nicotine concentrations, flavor or brand –, but as much as 39% (44/112) of them ran out of e-liquid. Those buying e-liquid mainly did so by making purchases via foreign online webshops. A similar pattern was observed with respect to purchasing hardware, with about half (47%, 95/202) of participants reporting hardware availability and with a small majority (53%, 107/202) reporting hardware unavailability. Of those indicating that hardware was not available, 38% (41/107) ran out of a properly functioning e-cigarette. A non-trivial minority had to consume e-liquids with another nicotine concentration, flavor or brand than usual. One seventh of exclusive vapers before lockdown relapsed partly or completely to smoking during the lockdown. The main reasons for changing vaping and/or smoking behavior included the unavailability of e-liquid with nicotine, the unavailability of hardware, and stress/worries about COVID-19. Conclusions: The majority of vapers succeeded in maintaining their vaping behavior as usual, highly likely due to (illegally) buying consumables online. Nevertheless, for a minority the lockdown period resulted in unintended consequences and these vapers relapsed (completely) to smoking. Even during periods of lockdown, smokers and vapers should be able to purchase low(er)-risk alternatives to smoking, for example e-cigarettes.
Adriaens, K., Van Gucht, D., Van Lommel, S., & Baeyens, F. (2021). Vaping during the COVID-19 lockdown period in Belgium. BMC Public Health, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-11637-4