Smoking bans, public opinion, social norms and vaping etiquette.

We all remember the days before the smoking bans. I was a smoker and I remember all too well smoke filled pubs and clubs: my clothes and hair smelling, my eyes streaming, ash and burn marks on my clothing – and I thought nothing of it. This was normality. Now put yourself in the place of the non smoker who suffers the same, but with none of the benefits of nicotine use. A never smoker said to me recently that the widespread support for bans on smoking in enclosed spaces was, whether or not the science on the dangers of second hand smoke is correct, non smokers pushing back. They were saying that smokers had inflicted the by-products of their habit on them for too long, and now it was going to stop. And of course the non smokers were in the majority so the result was inevitable.

Seven years later we now find ourselves facing the same issues with vaping. Except that this is different, as there are no known adverse effects to bystanders from the vapour emitted from e-cigarettes, and for their users, the huge majority of whom are current or ex smokers, they are vastly safer than consuming lit tobacco. The ability to use e-cigarettes in enclosed spaces is one of the factors which make them attractive to smokers, many of whom will switch to them completely. It is also one of the factors which create distance between the habits of smoking and vaping, and that distance is important in preventing relapse to smoking.

But we live in a world now where the non smoking public, having won their battle for smoke free air in enclosed spaces, is protective of it. Furthermore, encouraged by the more zealous anti smoking organisations, they are pushing for more – in the US there are areas where in some circumstances it is illegal to smoke in your own home and here in the UK we are now seeing calls for bans in outdoor spaces such as parks and at beaches. It is not at all uncommon these days for non smokers to complain at the faintest whiff of cigarette smoke, for example in a tweet I saw recently a non smoker on a camp site was complaining at being able to smell cigarette smoke coming from another tent. In public opinion today there is no longer any need for there to be any notion of harm, simple distaste is apparently enough. Like it or not, the social norm has changed.

Against this background smokers across the developed world have turned in their millions to e-cigarettes. First brought to the market by a Chinese pharmacist in around 2004, the uptake of these products has been staggering, and the innovation which has followed has been too much for all but the most ardent of enthusiasts to keep up with. And too much it seems, for many in tobacco control too. Faced with a consumer lead revolution towards a product which is both attractive to smokers and orders of magnitude safer than combustible cigarettes, they are on the back foot.  Some in tobacco control nevertheless advocate bans and restrictions based on little more than theoretical risks of renormalisation of smoking, the rehabilitation of their sworn enemy the tobacco industry and unknown future risks to health which, even if they materialise are unlikely to affect anyone other than the consumers themselves, and to a much lesser degree than the only true comparator, smoking lit tobacco.

Smokers who switched to vaping understandably thought that they had found a situation which would be welcomed by all. They had found a way by which they could continue to use nicotine, a well understood drug with a harm risk profile similar to caffeine, but via a delivery system devoid of the 4,000 odd toxins contained in lit tobacco. They were dramatically reducing the harm done to themselves, and also that said to be being done to others. Because the vapour emitted by e-cigarettes disperses very quickly and is almost odourless this should have been a socially acceptable method by which to consume nicotine.

However, they reckoned without the effects of the social engineering undertaken by the tobacco control movement. So successful were the policies of denormalisation in turning smokers into social pariahs that there is little sympathy among some sectors of the public for those smokers who choose to vape. And they are still seen by many in the tobacco control movement as the hopelessly addicted victims of the tobacco industry, weak willed (or deluding themselves into believing they enjoy nicotine) and beyond realistic help. So in order to minimise the as yet unsubstantiated theoretical future risks, policy recommendations dictate that these people are simply sacrificed as collateral damage in the war against the tobacco industry. If vapers are not careful the public will support these policies, just as they did with the smoking bans, and for even less good reason.

Another non smoker described to me what he felt was the issue. He believes that many vapers are “liberated smokers” with memories of all of the persecution that went with being a smoker, and so are fundamentally opposed to any and all restrictions on vaping and want to flaunt their new found freedom at every opportunity. If this means blowing vast clouds of vapour in a pub restaurant next to other diners they will do it. But would anyone, let alone a non smoker, really want to eat their chicken supper sitting next to this?

o-VAPING-COMPETITION-570

OK, that one is probably a little extreme. But if, as a restaurateur, you allow vaping, you are also allowing people to do that – unless you can think of some way to put restrictions on cloud size and density. Additionally, it is not practical to put a restriction on the number of vapers you have in at any one time, so even if they are all vaping ‘normally’, with a large number present things can still get pretty foggy as anyone who has been to a vape meet will know. We cannot expect the public to simply be happy to be told that the fog is benign, especially in light of the adverse propaganda spread through the media on what seems to be a daily basis. We also cannot expect proprietors and employers to fly in the face of the opinions of the non smoking, ‘clean air’ loving majority – but it should be their choice.

Vaping is relatively new and the etiquette is still developing. Most people I know are considerate and discreet when appropriate, but it only takes one obnoxious ‘its-legal-and-I’ll-do-what-i-like’ cloud blower to spoil the party for all of us in any given establishment. So we need to develop the etiquette ourselves, before public (and business) support results in further statutory bans of the sort now proposed in Wales, with Scotland watching intently. You can be sure that if bans are brought in the excuse will be “we don’t know what’s in them”, but the real reason will be “we just don’t like them”.

So vapers, what do you think? Is it better to be loud and proud, or is discretion sometimes the better part of valour?

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16 thoughts on “Smoking bans, public opinion, social norms and vaping etiquette.

  1. Many who oppose electronic cigarettes believe they are a tool of Big Tobacco. The arguments they used against smoking and indeed smokers are now being tailored to electronic cigarettes and “vapers”.
    An effective tactic that was used to great success against smoking was to “encourage society to view tobacco use as undesirable behavior”. Substitute “electronic cigarettes” for “tobacco” and you have the groundwork which could prove troublesome for vaping in the future.
    Far better, now, is to concentrate our efforts countering the plethora of junk science and outright lies of some in Public Health rather than fighting a war we can’t win, no matter how just vapers consider it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many a vaper is doing the ” it’s legal and i’ll do what I want”. It’s a shame when a few bad apples WILL ruin it for the majority of users. In favor of this product, choice, and / or device I still find myself seeing SOME cloud chasers being quite obnoxious.

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  3. Just as there was a kick-back against smokers, there is now a kick-back against unreasonable bans.

    You mention how extreme the bans can be – and you also make a valid point when you point out that even reasonable people vaping can be ‘uncomfortable’ to non – smokers in an enclosed space if enough people are vaping.

    So there is a problem. There will always be angry vapers and angry non-smokers. I do think, however, that there is a (long term) solution and that is a compromise – it will have to be this way.

    Simply put, we should be advocating an alternative to a ban. There are so many things we do voluntarily in our everyday lives that one more action will not hurt. If an establishment advertises that smoking is not allowed but vaping is, as long as the vaper is being considerate, and, that as long as the establishment is not too busy – vaping allowed at the management’s discretion. This would not work everywhere, though in other circumstances a vaping area could be provided, There must be variations on this theme. I know that I personally would not be offended if I am asked not to vape where too many people are gathered, we can educate / condition ourselves to accept this.

    The alternative is the complete ban, and the angry vaper, who, unlike his smoking counterpart / his former self, is not going to back down in the face of the ban. The ban will be defied with all of the consequences which will ensue.

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    • Management discretion is an interesting idea, it could well work in some establishments. Personally though, I would prefer some certainty, and I imagine the risk of incurring the wrath of vapers already present by telling them they can no longer vape might be off putting for some proprietors? That said, I’ve been to vape meets where, even though the manager agreed that we could vape, subsequently asked us to stop or go outside (all 30 odd of us) and whilst it wasn’t exactly ideal it was taken with good grace.

      Vaping areas are also an alternative to the binary choices which seem to dominate current advice (ban or allow), although it would be better if vaping were allowed generally but non vaping areas were provided perhaps. I think the balance is something that should be determined by the establishment itself based on its own analysis of its customer base.

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  4. I will always ask non-vapers if they mind me vaping, I think that’s just good manners. I understand if any establishment decide that, for other people’s comfort, they’d rather not allow Vaping.
    I’m lucky at work, not only am I allowed to vape, but I get asked daily by colleagues to vape in their office, so they can “guess the flavour of the day”
    I’ve also been asked by 4 or 5 smoking colleagues to help them switch to vaping and choose good equipment and generally the non-smokers are very supportive.

    I think more and more are becoming aware that as smoking declines there are establishments missing out on an established income stream. That includes BigTobacco, BigPharma and the Taxman, there is also Public Health that have been fighting against smoking for years, only to find that smokers have discovered their own solution… Vaping. These interested parties are bound to resist this “revolution” by fair means or foul.
    I’ve survived years of self-abuse by smoking, so I’m not about to cave in to the “interested parties” who are missing the income from my nicotine habit.

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  5. I certainly oppose legal bans, but even when it’s left to the discretion of the proprietor, the outcome is usually going to have the same effect. Business owners are so afraid of going against the tide, that it’s easier to blindly follow the policies of other organisations than to approach the issue without prejudice and make sensible decisions.
    We know that there’s no evidence or likelihood of harm to bystanders and existing research backs this up, but there remains a core of anti-smokers who (egged on by a few years of government-backed bullying of the smoker), take a stance of “I don’t want your nicotine imposed on me”. These individuals are wrong in their assumptions of the effects of vapour on the bystander (when alerted to this, they claim it’s irrelevant and they have a RIGHT to not have our choices imposed on them).
    When did it become the default position to protect the ignorant from being exposed to a nonexistent risk, rather than to respect the individual’s freedom to do what they want as long as it harms no-one else?
    My instinctive response to a ban on the grounds that someone might think I’m smoking or think that vapour is harmful is that the person who is WRONG should be the one to modify their behaviour. I should not be expected to stop doing what I’m doing to preserve their right to be wrong!
    Though I don’t regard ecigs to be medicines, there’s a part of me that would like to see some medicinal ecigs on the market, as this would have to change the public & legal response to their use. Instead of banning them because they can’t tell if someone’s smoking, I assume all would have to be permitted, because staff can’t be expected to tell which is a recreational product and which is medicinal (and it would be inappropriate to ban the use of a medicine).

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    • I am not sure if I should refer to you as ‘fleabag’ or not. Lol. having said that, Reynolds tobacco (I think) has had Vuse passed for medical use by the MRA in the UK. What this device is and how it works I do not know, nor can I be absolutely certain if it is actually a fact it has passed. Interesting consequences for bans if you are using a medical device though.

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  6. The smoking ban was done for a reason (I do not believe the reason but that is something else).

    An establishment is allowed to ban the use of e-cigs. But I think it should be for a good reasons.
    Usually there is a reason why something is not allowed (fire danger for example).

    If someone does not like it is that a valid reason?
    – Not to me it’s not. If it is can I complain about clothing people wear or anything else I do not like then?

    If someone complains about the smell is that a good reason?
    – Not to me it’s not. If it is then perfume or deodorant should also be banned. Or what about the lack of them.

    If there are people could be allergic is that a valid reason?
    – Could be but it depends. How do those people handle it now if they are allergic to perfume or something simular?

    More important question is what next or where next?

    For me I do not blow clouds when in public. Will only do it when asked or to educate a person.

    So at the moment I vape in places that once allowed smoking but I ask if it is allowed or not. I think the only place I do not vape without asking is inside a hospital.

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  7. I think the author makes a mistake by accepting it as right and fair that nonsmokers should own the right to decide over indoor environments in private places, simply because they represent a majority. What about the restaurant or bar owner who simply wants to choose differently? He knows his clientel and should have the right to decide over his property to conduct his business – smoking or nonsmoking, vaping or nonvaping.
    The line of thinking that only the majority’s preferences must be allowed everywhere is flawed, and in accepting that you put too much power in the hands of “social norms”, politicians and the state. Just imagine what will happen when someone someday in the future proposes a ban on eating ham in “public places” because the majority are now a combination of vegans and muslims, who find ham-eating obnoxious. The individual should at all times be the ruler of his own property, not only because it is his property, but because the individual restaurant owner will always adopt the best rules to suit his specific clientel in the best possible way.

    Another issue, re: “Like it or not, the social norm has changed”:
    According the the EU happiness index nonsmokers are not happier after smoking bans in any EU-country. Smokers however are grouped in two: The vast majority are less happy, while a minority of smokers indicate they are happier – these are people who were unsuccesful in a quitting attempt and may likely be vapers.
    The interesting thing however, is the nonsmoker replies, because they indicate that most nonsmokers were not as unhappy with the “smoked-filled rooms” before the bans as they say they were. This may be because they didn’t know that no-smoking rooms were apossible opton, but then again: Why are nonsmokers not happier after the smoking bans?
    http://ftp.iza.org/dp7177.pdf

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    • “I think the author makes a mistake by accepting it as right and fair that nonsmokers should own the right to decide over indoor environments in private places, simply because they represent a majority.”

      I don’t accept that at all. I’m not suggesting that that is what should happen, I’m suggesting that that is in fact what happened with smoking bans and predicting that it will happen with vaping.

      “What about the restaurant or bar owner who simply wants to choose differently? He knows his clientel and should have the right to decide over his property to conduct his business – smoking or nonsmoking, vaping or nonvaping.”

      I couldn’t agree more.

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  8. So the issue is that because a small minority of vapers are inconsiderate and cloud chasing in public areas this has the potential of being used to justify the banning of vaping for everyone? Could this behavior also apply to inconsiderate alcohol drinkers who similarly behave in a manner that the majority of considerate drinkers disapprove of? In which case using the same logical argument all alcohol drinking should be similarly banned in public places? A very slippery slope IMO and I believe that the most important message that needs to be fully understood by the non smoking public is a very simple one. Vaping is not smoking and it poses no harm to bystanders. Sure many may not like or approve of anything that resembles smoking, in the same way that many may not like or approve of drunken behavior but we would never consider banning alcohol because of a mindless few. The real issue is the lack of education and public health/ANTZ propaganda and from my own experiences normal vaping behavior is fully accepted by non vapers and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that even the most fervent non smokers have remarked positively about the vapour smell. The important issue must be to focus on every positive element of vaping that encourages the use of ecigs over tobacco use and a prime if not critical facet has to be that vaping is not smoking so its use should be differentiated and not seen to be the same as smoking which means acceptance inside as it does not pose harm to bystanders.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ll put an entry into the ‘discretion is the better part of valor’ column.
    I can chase clouds and I can stealth vape and everything in between. I have some skills, apparently. I am also a recovered 65 pack/year smoker. I’ve had enough of being a social pariah. But I have never lost sight of the real reason the public went so resoundingly negative against burning tobacco leaf. IT STINKS!!!
    Those affected could have given two wits about the harm [second hand smoke may kill, but not reliably]. They cared that they stank whenever the left the club, bar, hotel. That is why they hated us smokers.
    Now enter the vaper. There is still a scent albeit much more transient, and depending on the taste of the observer and the blend of juice it could be obnoxious. Perhaps not as universally so as tobacco but there will be some for whom the scent of vanilla, strawberry, mango or whatnot is annoying. Get a few of us together, not even blowing clouds, but vaping modestly, and we can create a rather noticeable fog that looks offensive. It does not matter that it is benign, human beings are hardwired to avoid such scenarios because it is usually a source of trouble. It is a reflexive survival mechanism. Add to that the social conditioning against smoking and a recipe for an awkward encounter is guaranteed.
    We can see that outdoors, where the vapor is not contained and is easily and rapidly dispersed this is not an issue. It would not be an issue in a large venue either as the ventilation needed to manage that many humans ought sufficently handle the additional vapor produced (notice how quickly fog dissipates in a theatrical production). But in smaller venues an etiquette must be followed. What ought be common courtesy may require legal enforcement simply because discretion is not a strongly prevalent sentiment in the vaping community. While I understand and appreciate why this is so, it doesn’t help us overall if the few inconsiderates force the rest of the public to ban our use everywhere which is the current zeitgeist of the body politic here in the States.

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  10. I agree with a lot of the sentiments here. Vaping visually reminds us that we all breathe each other’s gasses. Plus non vapers a scared of large, alien looking devices. A smoker using a large cigar in public looks ridiculous, and some of the big-cloud vaping devices do too. Also people should avoid nasal exhaling. I’ve not witnessed any disrespectful indoor vaping, but agree that people should take it outside if they intend to blow clouds.

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  11. I’m not an uncharitable person, and I try to be polite and refrain from vaping at restaurants and other similar public establishments for the sake of the comfort of others around me.

    That being said, anyone who thinks that cloud-chasing in public is even a small part of why public bans and over-regulation are being proposed and passed is missing the boat. This isn’t about us being rude – it’s about us being an unacceptable subclass of humans who must be stomped out by any means possible.

    The people pursuing these bans could use cloud chasing as an excuse, but their argument isn’t one iota less effective if they simply call it vaping in public. In tempe I watched them put through a ban with no mention of discomfort – they simply did it because they wanted us to not vape. It was purely an effort to pull us into the sphere of acceptable behavior as determined by a class who viewed themselves as elite.

    So vape in public or don’t, cloud chase or don’t. Besides your conscience, it won’t affect a single thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. From all onlookers point of view, clearly it looks like we are smoking… a very familiar well know habit portrayed publicly as ” dirty or disgusting” by certain interest groups of people. These same groups quickly learned those ” dirty and/or disgusting” addicts’ were obviously willing to pay high dividends to acquire their pleasure, and therefore simply continued to increase the price at leisure ( noting of course addicts didn’t whine to loudly in public.) Sadly however; it’s far too late for the vaper. Like the smoker, look like surely applies here ….even the kids agree….my own included! We missed it folks; we’ve been called addicts for far too long and that has obviously stuck itself in our own conscience leaving little room pride……. sadly’ IMO.

    “So vape in public or don’t, cloud chase or don’t. Besides your conscience, it won’t affect a single thing.”

    ………………. because we have been warned already! They admit they don’t know what’s in them….. rest assured though as the ban’s continue and the control evolves…..they certainly will know and we’ll still pay the piper! WHO….? you may ask.

    Happy New Year 2015
    Vape Safe!

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