|Sucking on a biro? No, using an e-fag
I was in the Endeavour in Whitby last August when I glanced to my left and saw what seemed to be a woman smoking, and so looked again more closely. She laughed and said, "You thought I was smoking a cigarette, didn't you?" I had to agree, but was interested, as I hadn't seen one close up before: they do look superficially like cigarettes and emit something that looks like smoke but is apparently water vapour. As far as I can see, they can pose no risk to the health or comfort of third parties. So why are they being banned?
Mitchells and Butlers, Wetherspoons and now Fullers have forbidden the use of e-cigarettes in any of their pubs. The reason is that it apparently causes anxiety to other customers, and the staff are under enough pressure as it is without having to check what people are using. While it's understandable that licensees would want to avoid the draconian penalties for contravention of the smoking ban, these aren't covered by it so there's no legal problem. It's just that you can't tell from behind the bar what the customer is using.
ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) are surprisingly sensible on this issue, cautioning businesses against introducing bans too hastily:
- Not all e-cigarettes look like tobacco cigarettes.
- Forcing people who are trying to quit to go outside with the smokers seems unfair, and may sabotage their efforts.
- If e-cigarettes become licensed as a medical product, they could become less of an issue over time.