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Discretion is the Better Part of Valour

I’ve been mulling this over in my head ever since the first vaping bans were imposed by businesses such as Wetherspoons. I kept thinking to myself why? Was it down to simply banning something that “looks like smoking” – after all there is a comprehensive policy in place across the UK in that smoking is not allowed/prohibited/banned in work places, public places (bars/pubs/clubs/public buildings etc), smoking is now prohibited in cars with kids in (not that it’s being enforced – after all, the police have far better things to do). There’s even calls for smoking bans (inclusive of e-cigarettes) in parks – the US, and New York in particular are fond of their smoke-free parks, completely ignoring the fumes from the multitude of internal combustion engines.

Of course, banning vaping in places where smoking is already prohibited would seem like a “logical” step for the puritanical zealots – after all, they do firmly believe in the “gateway” theory along with the old “renormalisation” statements (oh gosh, think of The Children™) – those two were key components of the Public Health (Wales) Bill put forward by Mark Drakeford, the former Welsh Health Minister.

There are arguments to be had that some of the earlier devices do look like cigarettes – and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s familiar to the smoker – it has a very similar draw and sensation to an actual cigarette – and that for busy pub staff (in the pubs that are still open after the 2007 smoking ban of course) can’t actually tell the difference if someone is smoking or vaping.

Of course, with advancements in the industry many newer starter kits – including the ones from the Tobacco Industry – may loosely resemble a cigarette, but are so far removed from them that to say “I can’t tell the difference if someone is smoking or vaping” is pretty much null and void.

No, the whole idea behind banning vaping is more than just the fact that some “can’t tell the difference” or “it’s ‘logical’ to include it in the smoking ban” (which by the way PHE are keen to point out is completely bonkers), there’s a facet of “I don’t like it” involved – and by “I don’t like it” I am of course referring to the average everyday individual. You know the ones – the ones that waft their hand in front of their face if they detect so much as a wisp of cigarette smoke or vapour. The ones that go into fake coughing fits (and it’s pretty blatant they are fake). The ones that demand you either extinguish your smoke or move on.

Now, there’s something to be said for the whole “freedom” thing at this point. I, as a vaper (and former smoker) felt I had a right (especially outdoors) to spark up or vape wherever I pleased. After all, smoking outdoors is relatively benign and vaping outdoors is even more benign, so I chose to do either one wherever. Is it my fault that after I spark up, or start vaping that a puritanical anti-smoker/vaper decides at that point to sit on the same bench? Is it my fault that said puritan decides to settle in the very near vicinity?

According to the puritans, yes it is. I am the one to blame that they chose to sit near me as I smoked/vaped. What?

Now I consider myself a respectful young man (stop sniggering!) and if I had indeed inadvertently intruded on someone’s personal space I would (in general) extricate myself calmly and quietly.

Which brings me to the whole point of this rambling post.

As Simon Clark covered the Global Forum on Nicotine implemented a vaping policy this year which did raise a few eyebrows, especially in relation to the very first point:

that some non-vaping delegates last year felt that they were ‘trapped’ with the vapour, which they found unpleasant and distracting, particularly in the plenary and parallel sessions where there are a lot of people packed into a relatively small space

Which goes back to the whole “I don’t like it” thing, only it’s wrapped in more mollifying words. Look I get it, some people just do not like either smoke or vapour. Either they have a genuine adverse reaction (I have coughed on occasion when some smoke/vapour catches me unawares – it’s a reflex thing), or one derived from other “problems”.

However, there is a lot of room for compromise. We know that the current smoking ban (and by extension vaping ban) in public places was only ever meant to be “where food is served” – it has grown exponentially and now threatens to intrude upon private spaces (i.e. if you use a room at home as an office, it’s then a “workplace”) – ignoring of course the “ban” in cars. We also know that all attempts to reach a compromise on the smoking ban (dedicated smoking rooms, members only clubs etc) failed – mostly due to the continual sock puppetry of the likes of ASH, and the reliance of over-exaggerated “science” (do read TobakkoNacht) to force the issue and to “protect” employees (which later turned into The Children™) – the whole thing about being controlled by the State.

It isn’t an overly ridiculous idea to have separate areas in pubs and restaurants (they did prior to the smoking ban, and with improvements in air extraction this is entirely feasible). However, in some cases that may not be a feasible option (think night clubs and other public buildings where segregation isn’t possible) in which case, it should be up to the proprietor to decide if he/she allows vaping/smoking on the premises.

Of course, by allowing vaping in a pub/restaurant/club/whatever opens a whole new can of worms – the other patrons. We know that some simply do not like vaping (for various reasons) and they may demand that vaping be included in the “smokefree” ruling on the premises. Now Mr/Mrs Proprietor has a decision to make, bow to the demands of a few and risk losing trade from vapers or ignore the demands and risk losing trade from those that “don’t like it” – from their point of view it is a lose-lose situation, either way ends up with the business losing out.

This is where common courtesy comes in. We are, by nature, territorial creatures – we don’t particularly like things intruding into our personal space that can be avoided. In some cases where avoidance isn’t an option, we do (usually) tolerate the intrusion – but there are of course limits to our tolerance, some more so than others.

As proven at GFN, vapers continued to vape in the conference itself (not just in the common areas outside the conference rooms), but they did so discreetly and unobtrusively. It is more difficult to “stealth vape” on some devices and tanks than it is on others. As Tom Pruen points out in the ECITA open letter to train companies:

It is one of the fundamental basics of courtesy to minimise the extent to which your actions impact others, and in the case of electronic cigarettes this can be easily achieved.  While most users of electronic cigarettes (vapers) find that the visible vapour on exhaling adds to the satisfaction of the product, it is not difficult to reduce this (and there are even liquids designed to minimise the visible vapour).

It is simply a matter of courtesy on the part of us, the vaper and smoker, to minimise the extent to which our choice impacts on others – you wouldn’t expect to see someone smoking in the fresh food aisles at your local supermarket would you? So why would you decide to vape there?

Every situation a vaper finds themselves in is unique, there is no “One Rule” to rule them all, but we are responsible for our actions and how we respond to requests that we “don’t do that here” can either help or hinder the public perception of vaping as a whole – you only have to look at any vaping article to see how vaping is portrayed as “big clouds”. Vaping has an image problem, and it is up to us – the everyday vaper to not reinforce that negative image.

Update

As with any post, comments come in from all angles, and some make me re-read my post in a new light. Once such comment came from Tom Gleeson on Twitter. In the comment, he describes a fairly unique situation. An outdoor event, complete with marquees to accommodate smokers (which is a wonderful idea). There were also vapers present at this event, described by Tom as “a good selection of hipster types” – with a few of them sub-ohm vaping (which there’s nothing wrong with that in itself), however the few smokers that were there went outside the shelter to smoke. As Tom puts it “first time I’ve seen a smoking area made ‘unfriendly’ to smokers.”

Fortunately, that didn’t last for the entirety of the event. But it did get me thinking, and as Tom rightly pointed out to me “They don’t see us as fellow smokers” – after all, smokers have been conditioned (indoctrinated would probably be a better turn of phrase) to “step away” from gatherings (usually from inside to outside), but this is the first known instance of something like this occurring.

I do believe that if vapers are courteous around non-smokers/non-vapers, then the very same courtesy should (by default) be extended to current smokers also.

Do feel free to comment with your thoughts!

7 thoughts on “Discretion is the Better Part of Valour

  1. Good article, but the word you were reaching for is “discreetly,” not “discretely” — 2 different words with entirely different meanings.

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