Friday, 3 January 2014

Use of electronic cigarettes: blanket bans are not appropriate!

I am hearing about blanket bans on people using e-cigarettes on public transport and in some public places like bars and pubs e.g. Wetherspoons, etc. I have even seen a notice banning the use of e-cigs in a comedy club where you can eat and drink while watching the show!

 Let's try to avoid blanket bans

Some of the reasoning behind these bans is a bit poor, for example:

  • "Staff have to impose the indoor smoking ban and might confuse them with real cigarettes". This *may* apply if the vaper was very far away from the staff member and using a "cig-a-like" rather than a "sonic screwdriver" type device. So in a large understaffed venue, perhaps this could apply, but in a small venue or a larger one that was well-staffed, the staff would clearly see that the person was vaping not smoking. 
Does this look like a fag?

  • "Other customers may see someone using an e-cigarette and think they can smoke". I find this a bit dubious as the indoor smoking ban has been in place in England and Wales since 2007 and in Scotland since 2006 and there has never been the remotest suggestion that the law was going to be changed. Are there really smokers out there who think that you can still smoke inside? I doubt it.
  •  "We don't know the harm e-cigarettes cause". This is a sign of a person being poorly informed or mis-informed, as while the jury is still out on the effect of long term use (to have long term use studies, you need long term use...), independent experts can say with confidence that e-cigarettes are infinitely less harmful than tobacco and the possible health dangers that have been identified are minor. In addition, as e-cig users exhale mostly water and flavouring, there is no such thing as passive vaping.

I can see the logic for bans in certain areas, for example in a school except in the staff room where only teachers can enter, or in a hospital ward, but not in the canteen, cafe or public waiting areas of the hospital. As well there being no danger of second hand inhalation or harm, the vapour doesn't smell bad, although in a very poorly ventilated or confined space, I could see that it might bother some people. In a workplace context, someone vaping in a client facing role would look unprofessional, as would for example eating; you wouldn't expect a receptionist to greet you with a mouthful of food!

I am wondering what solutions could be proposed in order to stop organisations panicking and instituting blanket bans on ecig use, which in some cases may oblige vapers who have quit smoking tobacco to go and stand with the smokers and inhale their second hand smoke (bit unfair that!). 

My ideas are:

1) Vaper etiquette - eg always check that it's OK to vape if there is no information to inform you either way. I know some vapers already do this in bars and pubs and have generally found it a good approach and have almost never been refused permission.

2) A case by case basis - ie that each organisation considers where it might be appropriate to vape and sets a policy appropriately. So in a hospital, it might be OK to vape in the reception area (not for staff!), the cafe and the canteen, but not on a ward.

3) Allowing vaping unless there are serious objections. I think from comments I have already seen on Twitter, some are concerned objections might be based on false information i.e. that the person thinks they can be harmed by another person's e-cigarette. I think the confined space and ventilation issue could be relevant here. 

I am a lifelong non-smoker and I hate to breathe other people's cigarette smoke, not only because I don't like the smell or taste of tobacco or the harm that comes with it, but also because tobacco smoke makes me cough and dries my eyes out thus iritating my contact lenses. However, although I don't vape, I have no problem with people using e-cigarettes around me, but if there were many vapers in a confined space or a place with poor ventilation, I think I could find it a bit unpleasant and on one occasion this gave me a slight headache. 

4) Consult users - ask e-cig users and others who use a building/venue what they think. I could imagine for example, that most people would not mind a colleague using an ecig in the office kitchen or canteen, but not in a meeting room or office. I have also spoken to ecig users who said they would never vape at their desk or in a meeting.

5) (a suggestion via David Dorn on Twitter): Designated vaping area e.g. part of a carriage on a train or certain rows of seats on a bus, presumably with the proviso that you cannot vape elsewhere. Some trains have quiet carriages, but enforcement is patchy as I've been in quiet carriages where people make loud phone calls and no-one objects, yet on one occasion a colleague and I got told off by another passenger for talking quietly to each other!

Comments and suggestions most welcome.


  1. Generally, I agree with most measures, though being able to vape at my desk would prevent me from being sent to the smoking area (where habit, culture and cravings lead me to smoke). Happy to abstain in meetings or customer facing situations. However, I think it's important to allow patients to vape on hospital wards. This would help many people switch for good & avoid patients making risky journeys outside to smoke

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  2. "Designated vaping area e.g. part of a carriage on a train or certain rows of seats on a bus, presumably with the proviso that you cannot vape elsewhere"

    Err, how do you reckon the anti-smokers elevated a mild irritant which most didn't care about into something people could believe was lethal thanks to tactically designed junk science? Very bad idea.

    There is nothing bad about vapour, period. That's what should be emphasised, once you start encouraging people to be wary of it you may as well pack up and go home.

  3. The main ingredient in ecig vapour is propylene glycol, approved by the FDA for use as an air sanitiser in hospitals. It could be of benefit to allow ecigs on british hospital wards... might help the fight against super bugs. (ps. Been vaping 5 yrs and havent caught a cold that whole time.I wish someone would research that, as im not the only 1 and it makes sense that the pg would be protective.)

  4. Until and unless there is reputable scientific evidence supportive of ANY restriction, I will accept none. Arbitrary restrictions, based on prejudice, ideology or misunderstanding are wrong, plain and simple... in every language and by every rational measure.

    There is nothing to compromise on here, Rebecca... except the truth, and to do that fosters repression. Sure, you can argue 'pragmatism' and strike a conciliatory compromise... but with what? Prohibitionists have NO argument. None. They are attempting to impose upon something while lacking evidence and foundation. Compromise with such an invalid view is no more than appeasement, which in this case directly impinges upon freedoms and sets the tone for further baseless prohibition in the future.

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  6. Rebacca, Hi…..I feel I really need to get this off my chest, so:

    We vapers started vaping off our own backs because we wanted to stop smoking and having tried all other methods we were, well, desperate.

    NRT doesn’t work, it has something like a 90% failure rate, on the other hand, EVERYONE I know who has tried vape to quit smoking has succeeded by vaping.

    SO, I tried vaping, and from day one it worked, I haven’t smoked for almost 11 months, and apart from the first week or so, I haven’t felt the need to smoke at all.

    A few facts:

    1. It doesn’t cost the state anything directly as we fund out “hobby” ourselves.
    2. It’s far, far healthier than smoking – 3 fold safer according to a speech in the HoL’s
    3. It’s safe for everyone around me, I exhale lass Nicotine than you would receive from eating a tomato. It’s probably more dangerous to breath the air in Manchester city centre than vaping. And in fact Propylene Glycol has a natural anti bacterial effect.

    Then the EU gets involved, and adds Ecigs (I hate that name) to the TPD revisions, why I ask?

    There is NO evidence that vaping is bad for you, and by evidence I mean real scientific evidence not the lies spouted by the so called “public health” activists.

    There is already regulations in place for Ecigs – 17 if I remember correctly, the only other we need would be a ban on sales to minors and maybe better QA on the juice itself.

    It would seem the only reason Ecigs are in the TPD is because of lobbying by organisations that have a vested interest – big Pharma and big tobacco – they have a lot to loose.

    The MEP’s (in the main) who are deciding the future of vaping do not know enough about the subject, I had to tell Chris Davies that it is impossible to make 20mg juice from 20mg Nic base (you need to add VG and flavours to the PG base therefore lowering the nic content to about 9mg).

    Then there is the misrepresentation of scientist’s studies by the EU to justify the so called “light touch” regulation. They bang on about the toxicity of Nicotine to justify smaller atomisers, smaller juice bottles and non leak filling systems and ignore recent studies showing Nicotine is a lot less toxic than they assume.

    Tobacco sales have apparently dropped by 8% this year, attributed to Ecigs sales, the revisions to the TPD were only expected to give a 2% drop, yet Ecigs still do not “fit the bill”?

    Liberal MEP’s, yourself included are still talking about compromise where there should not be any! Anything less than what we have now WILL be a worse situation for vapers.

    I could go on and on………….I, and others have come to the conclusion that the situation we are in is down to money, pure and simple. All governments can see is the loss of revenue due to the rise of Ecigs and the drop in tobacco sales. They really do not care about our health, I will continue to try to stop what is happening, but my faith in government is gone, I wont be voting for any party again as they all seem to be the same,


    Roger Ball

  7. I second every word Roger said. It's all well and good to talk about compromise, "the art of the possible" or how we can't get everything we want. The thing is though, we didn't want ANYTHING apart from to be left alone.

    Various people, including senior figures in "public health" NGOs, have told me that being left alone is not an option. Well WHY isn't it an option? There is no problem needing to be solved here. Nobody has got ill from using an e-cig. We heard about the possible hazards of second-hand vapour. It's been tested and there is no hazard. We heard about the "gateway effect." It's been studied and that isn't happening. We've been told we don't know what's in them, which is frankly bollocks.

    Why should we accept a compromise? Are we supposed to be happy that the current iteration of the TPD only proposes to ban every e-cig that exists, instead of every one that could possibly exist? The authors of this miserable document want to take away some of our freedom for no reason at all. Compromising between the right thing to do and what the EU Commission wanted is not a good outcome. It is not "better than it could have been." It is not even moral. Every compromise between right and wrong is a victory for wrong.

  8. 50 years ago homosexuality was considered an illness and treated medically. Can you imagine today trying to ban homosexuals on trains, yet they represent just 3% of the UK population. Smokers represent 20% of the UK population and as has already been highlighted in previous posts there is no credible or logical scientific health reason that provides any justification for any ban of the use of e-cigarettes in public. You may as well try and ban the wearing of perfume or aftershave on the grounds that the smell is not conducive to public health. Prove scientifically that there is a public health risk from the vapour an e-cig produces and I will gladly refrain from vaping in public. If not, I'm just being victimised and discriminated against for the simple reason that I've chosen freely and without breaking any laws to choose to use a safer alternative delivery method of the legal recreational substance that is nicotine. I can accept being vilified, but I won't accept being discriminated against.

    1. Vaping bans, misinformation and oppressive regulation can do nothing other than dissuade smokers from trying this much safer alternative.
      What is really needed is for the BMA, WHO and some senior public health "professionals" to stop scaremongering about ecigs. Most vaping bans have used the BMAs stance to inform their policy. If the fact that vaping is much safer than smoking was promoted by these organisations then there would be no need for vaping bans.

  9. I can see the logic for bans in certain areas, for example in a school except in the staff room where only teachers can enter, or in a hospital ward, but not in the canteen, cafe or public waiting areas of the hospital. innokin

  10. I do not think it is a good idea to vape in a hospital ward, what about the patients who have lung disease or heart problems? My family and I have all suffered from the "vapour" from e-cigs in restaurants, in fact one member said it was like someone was smoking! Unless you know what is in every e-cig please do not presume that they are all safe, just read the literature from FDA, BMA etc.

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