The business, which had been running trials from its Edinburgh-based stores in the hope of keeping its doors open during a Covid-19-triggered lockdown, was forced into temporary closures after the UK government “failed to clarify its view” on vaping stores.
VPZ had expected the UK to implement measures similar to those in nations such as Spain, Switzerland and Italy, where vaping retailers were classed as “essential” stores and permitted to remain open in an attempt to prevent smokers from lapsing back to smoking.
Following the Prime Minister's announcement on Monday evening implementing a three-week lockdown, Doug Mutter, VPZ director of compliance and manufacturing, said: "We are disappointed with the lack of clarification from the government regarding where vaping retailers stand.
“Other European nations had recognised the work vaping specialists do in reducing the stress on health services and kept the local stores open. We had expected this to be the case and had begun investing in new processes in order to manage our business in such an environment.
“However, without sufficient clarification and in the interest of keeping our staff and customers safe we have taken the decision to close all 155 stores as of Tuesday for the next three weeks.”
VPZ had begun trialling health and safety schemes in the Scottish capital last week, with a view to rolling them out UK-wide in the event of a lockdown. These included offering local deliveries for people who are not able to utilise an online sales platform.
Mutter said: “We have been advised by both the UK government and the World Health Organisation that smoking has a hugely detrimental impact when coupled with Covid-19.
“We as business have a duty of care to help people protect themselves, and to ensure our staff and customers are kept safe. That is why we have so far kept all of our stores open.
"VPZ's role over the last few weeks was to take the stress off the NHS by helping smokers, who are some of the most vulnerable people to Covid-19, to quit the habit.”
He pointed existing customers and smokers looking to quit to the VPZ website which will continue to operate “as normal”.
Mutter added that all of VPZ’s mainline staff will be paid in full salary for the duration of their time off.
Join our Facebook group Coronavirus in Scotland. Whether you know of a vulnerable person who is in need of help, a local community proactively helping others or a group offering their services to those hit hardest, this is the place to communicate it.