Firstly, vaping is not banned in public, as smoking is, and the government has consistently said it has no plans to change that. Additionally, as the report clearly states, it has been ‘impossible to measure the risks from “second-hand” e-cigarette vapour because any potentially harmful compounds released into the surrounding area are so negligible’. Restrictions on vaping in certain places have nothing to do with government and are not based on any public-health threat. Mostly, anti-vaping policies have been installed because those applying them don’t understand anything about e-cigarettes, so banning them is the simple and lazy option.

Pubs, businesses and, yes, train companies set their own policies. All the report is saying is that they should be better informed as to what e-cigarettes are and how they are encouraging smokers to quit at a rapid rate. Some may change their policy, some may not, but it is better that they understand the debate so that they can make a more informed decision.

And why won’t these public institutions allow vaping? This brings us on to the widespread misunderstanding that vaping is all about huge clouds. It isn’t. For every ‘cloud-chaser’ you see pumping out large plumes on a high-wattage device, there are around 40 or 50 others who you won’t even notice are vaping. And for those who are adamant that e-cigarette use should never be allowed on trains and buses, I have news for you: vapers do it all the time. It isn’t difficult to ‘stealth vape’. It is almost certain that you will have been in a train carriage with a vaper and been none the wiser.

Blowing huge clouds in public is rude, just as eating a curry on a train would be considered rude – it is an issue of manners. But the vast majority of vapers don’t do that, and if rules were relaxed to permit considerate vaping, then most people would probably not even notice it was happening. Of course, there may be some people who are pathologically opposed to vaping on principle, but why should their prejudice interfere with someone’s efforts to use something safer than tobacco? There could be a vaping carriage on a train, or a stand at a cricket ground where vaping is allowed, leaving plenty of options for those who really can’t bear the idea of someone else quitting smoking around them.

Another fundamental misunderstanding of e-cigarettes is that they deliver nicotine in the same way as smoking. They don’t. The argument that vapers should go outside – or wait till they get off the train – to get their fix betrays a deep misunderstanding of how the devices work. Smoking delivers a huge, instant, nicotine dose that will give a smoker a peak that will last a fair amount of time. Vaping delivers far less nicotine but keeps the vaper at a level that they are comfortable with. Smokers binge, vapers graze. Just a puff here and there will be enough to stop a vaper going back to the fags. That is, after all, the point.

So why not allow vaping on trains? And in offices, pubs, buses and anywhere else? As the committee notes, there is ‘no public-health rationale’ for banning vaping, and all arguments against the idea are based on a lack of education of how they work. Norman Lamb’s committee has identified the potential that a more welcoming environment for vapers could have for the public’s health; it would be churlish to reject its commonsense recommendations for the sake of appeasing fears borne out of a lack of understanding.

Martin Cullip is a blogger and businessman.

Picture by: Wikimedia Commons / TBEC Review

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