Vaping and smoking

Vape shops are essential? Its trade association, the Rocky Mountain Smoke Free Alliance, said Wednesday those trying to quit cigarettes might think so.

Vape shops want the same exclusion from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's stay-at-home order as liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries received. Hancock is allowing those businesses to remain open, deemed as essential, as long as they practice social distancing.

“If alcohol and recreational marijuana are essential services, we believe that responsible adult vaping consumption is an essential service, too," Amanda Wheeler, vice president of the Rocky Mountain Smoke Free Alliance, said in a statement. "This is a health issue as many of our customers are former combustible cigarette smokers looking for a healthier alternative to smoking. When you take away that option, it has real health implications. With vape shops closed, former smokers may have to resort to purchasing cigarettes from convenience stores."

The alliance said it had asked Hancock to reconsider. "And he has so far refused," Wheeler said.

"We understand that, as small business owners, we don’t have as much political clout as the marijuana industry, big tobacco or the liquor lobby, but his refusal to acknowledge this glaring error in policy threatens the livelihood of our small businesses and the health of our customers at time when everyone is suffering," she said.

“We politely request that he reverse course and remedy this challenging situation.”

When Hancock announced the stay-at-home order Monday, lines quickly formed outside pot shops and liquor stores, before his office clarified they would be exempt.

The mayor's office referenced that in relation to the vape store closings Wednesday.

"Vape shops were determined by the City Attorney's Office and Denver Public Health and Environment to not be an essential business during this public health emergency," spokesman Michael Strott said in an email. "Public demand also factored into the decision by public health officials to exempt liquor stores and retail marijuana shops -- as evidenced by the unsafe numbers of people who gathered in lines at those businesses, but not vape shops."

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