Concerned about his 0.1- to one-percent risk of dying from COVID-19 but wishing to support local essential small businesses in economically challenging times, 33-year-old Brian Lewis of Nashville, Tennessee, continues to buy his cigarettes in person from his neighborhood market, but wears a face mask from the time that he leaves his house to drive the half-mile to the bodega to the time that he pulls back into his driveway safely at home.

“I’m not in the high-risk age group for coronavirus, but as a smoker, I need to take some extra precautions,” said Lewis, whose doctor – over the phone – had emphasized to him the importance of tending to his health during the COVID-19 crisis. “I’m also very cognizant of social distancing. The standard recommendation is six feet, but I do my best to shoot for seven or eight. As space allows, of course.”

Lewis explained that at the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic, he did consider shifting his tobacco purchasing to online. “But I hated the thought of my government stimulus payment going to some huge faceless corporation,” he said. “And I didn’t want the corner store to suffer. They’re hurting for business as it is.”

In addition to continuing to purchase tobacco products in person at his local market, Lewis also regularly patronizes local mom-and-pop shops like Carl’s Jr., Domino’s, Chik-fil-A, and Wendy’s. “I always use the drive-through when I leave the house to buy food,” he said. “It’s a small thing, but those small things really add up when it comes to flattening the curve. Fortunately, drive-throughs were something I’d gotten in the habit of doing even prior to all of this, so for me, it wasn’t that big a change.”

Lewis has avowed to continue supporting local convenience stores, liquor stores, and fast food restaurants for the duration of the horrific pandemic, even if it takes a small toll on his budget. “It’s true that you can sometimes get better deals online – but at what cost?” he said. “During this unprecedented time, it’s more important than ever that we support small businesses. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.”

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