It was back in 2014 that the World Health Organisation (WHO) advised that ecigarettes should be banned indoors and public places. Their line of approach was that although vaping is healthier than smoking the risks posed to those passively inhaling the vapour was too great.
Just recently in the US New York became the 11th state to ban vaping indoors, San Francisco (among others) has banned e liquid flavours. The argument has been that ecigarettes encourage youngsters to vape and ultimately lead them to start smoking. Others, such as New York State Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, who recently sponsored the banning of ecigarettes in public places in New York, claim it is about the rights of the individual.
In the UK the approach feels very different. The UK has so far kept legislation of ecigarettes largely to the Tobacco Products Directive – effectively an EU law that has been incorporated into the statute books in the UK. Any vaping bans are at the discretion of the premises themselves.
Who is right and who is wrong has a long answer. Lack of irrefutable science is one problem. As many studies show vaping as positive as those that say it causes harm. Studies are largely small or anecdotal, relying on what people say, and whereas smoking is a one-size-fits-all demon, according to the research vaping may be harmful in some ways, but not another. The problem here lies in consumer confidence. If the authorities can’t agree, what’s to be done?
Dealing with smoking is much easier. It’s proven to be bad. It kills more people than guns. But with vaping the issue is currently about how to manage the risk, after all no-one is saying that vaping is risk-free. And vaping is still a very young industry, and tarred with the same brush as smoking.
...But We Already Know This About Vaping
Across the world there are e liquid flavour concentrate bans, and in some countries it’s banned outright with fines and imprisonment for those breaking the laws. Policymakers in the US are considering reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. In a bid to make smoking economically difficult for lower earners the UK hiked base rate tobacco taxes, effectively increasing the prices of cheaper cigarettes. Menthol cigarettes were banned. Ten-packs were stopped too.
And when it comes to the TPD vaping in public places isn't covered.
Everyone it seems, whether in reality or just for the look of it, is in agreement about cigarettes. But an e cigarette gets different treatment. And what caused the current outlook for cigarettes was years and years of research, that kept coming up with the same answer: smoking kills.
Early on in the UK vaping got support with the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England declaring it 95% safer than smoking and more recently the NHS Swaptober quit smoking campaign included ecigarettes for the first time. The message in the UK is very much along the lines of supporting the lesser of two evils, so to say. Of course not all UK organisations agree. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) who decide which treatments get funding have expressed the need for caution, claiming that more long-term research is needed.
But as we’ve mentioned, vaping is a young industry. It needs not only research, but that ‘long term-ness’ too.
In contrast the USA is treating nicotine and vaping in the same way it treats drug use. Speaking in The Guardian Peter Hajek, a professor, psychologist and tobacco researcher at the Queen Mary University of London said: “I think the Americans are much more scared of nicotine.”
Hajek also told The Guardian the decision to ban ecigarette use indoors in New York state – it was banned in New York City in 2013 – was part of an American “war on drugs” mentality and that “this is a very irrational decision to make.”
The WHO’s report into passive vaping said “exhaled aerosol is likely to increase above background levels the risk of disease to bystanders, especially in the case of some that produce toxicant levels in the range of that produced by some cigarettes”.
And three years later vaping is still caught between an individual’s wish to quit smoking, an individual’s right to clean air, its infancy as an industry and a general lack of proper understanding.
After all, if it looks like smoke, acts like smoke, it must be smoke, right?