Where There’s Smoke, There’s No Longer Fire: The Etiquette of E-Cigarettes

As the electronic cigarette movement grows, many smokers are using their devices in public places – and that is causing quite a stir around the world. While the popularity of the e-cigarette is on the rise, the etiquette of public use of the device remains fuzzy.

First of all, not everyone is familiar with the e-cigarette and if you’re puffing away in a movie theatre, don’t be surprised if you are asked to put it out – or in this case, turn it off.

The big debate over these battery-powered cigarette look-alikes is this: Should people be allowed to “light up” whenever and wherever they choose? Or should e-cigarettes be treated like “real” cigarettes—and kept out of restaurants, bars, grocery stores, airplanes and any other place “no smoking” rules apply.

London’s Heathtrow’s airport recently opened the world’s first airport “vaping” zone – a lounge dedicated to use of e-cigarettes. And this adds to the confusion as the airport strictly forbids all other forms of smoking—fueling the debate whether “vaping’ is considered smoking.

And the answer is “yes, I believe it is, until we know more about it.”

I believe that the etiquette for e-cigarette use is the same as that of real cigarettes. If in the future we find a health benefit, then we can give them more space in our worlds, but until then, let’s treat them as we would a cigarette.

Just this week the House Transportation Committee approved a bill banning cell phone calls during flights. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was quoted on Canadavapes.com as saying “Airline passengers have rights, and this new rules would enhance passenger comfort and reduce any confusion surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes in flight.”

Chicago and New York have already pushed back on the use of the devices, banning their use wherever smoking is taboo.

What exactly is an e-cigarette? The FDA website defines e-cigarettes as “battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. They turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user.”

Which leads me to my second point: just because you are exhaling vapor water doesn’t mean I want to inhale it. E-cigarettes are so new that it’s impossible to know the health risks, both to the person “vaping” and those exposed to the vapor.

The technology and gizmos that survive in the marketplace save us time and money, or make us feel special. Nowadays, the platinum rule is king.  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Do others want to be around your vapor.

A recent survey of 1011 adults, conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by e-cigarette maker Mistic® came back with some interesting results. Of the more than 1000 American adults polled, nearly two-thirds said they would not be bothered by someone using an e-cigarette in close proximity.

“That’s good news for the e-cigarette industry, but that doesn’t mean vapers have carte blanche,” said John Wiesehan Jr., CEO of Mistic and survey spokesperson. “We wanted to better understand American attitudes when it comes to vaping in public, but also use the opportunity to lead the conversation about the need for proper etiquette when using electronic cigarettes or personal vaporizers.”

Just because e-cigarettes are not (yet) covered under most smoking bans, doesn’t mean you should “vape” wherever and whenever you please. E-cigarette smokers, like smokers, should light up outdoors, away from non-smokers.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic! Share in the comments below.

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