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.

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