Is a vape shop – or any outlet vending e-cigs and e-liquids – just a vaping-goods store, or is it something more? Could some even go as far as to be described as social hubs for those looking to quit tobacco smoking and better control their nicotine addiction?

Well, a study published in February 2018 by the Cancer Research UK Tobacco Advisory Group has looked into the vape shop’s role (particularly in people’s quests to quit smoking) and its conclusions suggest that the humble vape shop is, indeed, much more than it says on the tin – such outlets *are* playing a critical role in the fight against smoking.

Dispensaries and social hubs?

To be precise, the study’s findings highlight different features and services that distinguish vaping retailers (whether you’re talking a vape shop London or one located anywhere else in the country) from other kinds of stores, noting that “[vape] shops offered opportunity to socialise and reinforce a vaping identity” and that they “can provide effective behavioural support to quitters to maintain smoking abstinence”.

The study also looks in a particularly academic manner at the vape shop’s role for the e-cig community; describing it as essentially acting as a semi-medical dispensary, one that dispenses not only goods to aid people to quit smoking but also advice, assistance and a sense of community – the latter being crucially important in encouraging vaper to maintain their addiction management.

From the research involved and the findings they were able to make, the study’s authors also noted that “the presence of vape shops in these everyday environments normalised vaping for some quitters, making it appear socially acceptable”.

Supportive but too masculine?

Moreover, the study’s results underline the fact that e-cigs and all their associated paraphernalia have helped open up struggling smokers to health improvements and everyday money-savings, so much so that “nearly every vaper interviewed commented on the reduced cost of vaping compared to smoking as a key benefit”. Plus, the ability to engage in a ‘scene’ and easily seek out advice from vape shop staff (acting as pseudo-vape mentors) drew comparisons in the study’s conclusions to how the likes of Apple’s approachable and highly effective Genius Bar operates: “there were plenty of instances where the shops gave support to customers who were having difficulties. Several customers asked shop staff to change coils and there were examples of hardware issues being investigated for free”.

But all that’s not to say that everything’s perfect in ‘Vape Shop Land’. In the enlightened environment of today when the ‘Me Too’ movement has rightly become a phenomenon, some of the study’s subjects bemoaned how too many vape shops had chosen to give off an atmosphere that suggested they were “masculine territories”. Indeed, one subject suggested that “at this point the shop feels very much like a traditional pub with men joking and discussing hardware and vaping”.

Clearly then, there’s still work to be done for the vape shop to be all it can be – to be as inclusive as it might be and to spread the word of vaping and aid in its attraction to not just male (non-)smokers, but all and sundry. As such, the study concludes by saying vape stores are a vital aspect of the e-cig scene because they offer “an important ‘expert by experience’ role in supporting smokers to quit.” And in spite some of their number engendering an intimidating, ‘masculine’ atmosphere, which could discourage medically-conscious and female smokers, many are all about doing the exact opposite. That is, providing a sociable, approachable and invididual experience that breeds inquiry and discussion and seeks to equip vapers and would-be-non-smokers with devices that are best suited for what they want – and what they need.

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