Friday, 21 July 2017

A fit of the vapers

I spotted the sign on the right in the Prince Rupert in Newark, Nottinghamshire, which belongs to a small pubco called Knead Pubs. Similar blanket bans on e-cigarettes are commonplace, most notably in Wetherspoon’s, but the the faux-politeness of this one is particularly grating. It’s not much consolation to vapers that using e-cigarettes indoors is legal if the pub behaves as though it isn’t.

However, it illustrates a wider issue confronting public health policy. Despite indoor smoking bans and punitive taxation, smoking prevalence in society remains stubbornly reluctant to fall. In the past few years, though, there has been more sign of movement, which has been mainly due to the rise of e-cigarettes, or vaping. While many vaping devices do mimic conventional cigarettes, it is in fact somewhat misleading to describe them as such, as they don’t involve tobacco or combustion in any way.

It is clear that simply wielding a big stick is not an effective way of reducing smoking, and smokers need to be provided with an attractive alternative. However, the public health lobby has a big problem with vaping, not only because it falls into the category of “not invented here”, but also because it can be an enjoyable activity in its own right, not just a joyless smoking cessation therapy. The result is that they have been reluctant to endorse vaping, and indeed by going on about how its risks still need further investigation are in effect telling people to continue smoking, which comes across as an extremely callous attitude. No activity is entirely without risk, but it is pretty self-evident that the health risks of vaping are lower than those of smoking tobacco by several orders of magnitude.

It seems, though, that at last the public authorities are realising that encouraging vaping is likely to be the most productive way of cutting smoking rates, and this has been recognised in the government’s latest anti-smoking campaign, which is reported to involve urging millions to switch to e-cigarettes. But there is a lot of prejudice to be overcome from organisations, both public and private, that have found it all too convenient to treat vaping in exactly the same way as smoking. For example, I recently travelled on the Isle of Wight ferry, where both smoking and vaping had been banned completely on any part of the vessel, even outdoor deck areas.

Government, both national and local, and public bodies such as the education sector and the NHS, need to set an example by ensuring that the blanket prohibition of indoor smoking is not extended to vaping. If vaping is made no more convenient than smoking, then where is the encouragement to switch? And, while the principle of “my gaff, my rules” must always prevail, it should be made clear to commercial organisations such as pub operators that imposing blanket bans is distinctly unhelpful in terms of public health and, in effect, is indirectly killing people. The Welsh government’s plans for a ban on indoor vaping identical to that on smoking must be consigned to the scrapheap.

But the idea of vaping as a valid recreational pursuit is likely to be very difficult for many in authority to accept...


  1. I agree that automatically applying the same rules to vapers as to smokers does seem unreasonable.

    1. But if allowing vaping is driving customers away it makes commercial sense to ban it. It is not part of the pub owners remit to promote public health initiatives. If it was they would stop selling people alcohol in quantity :-)

      The fact that vaping is legal is irrelevant. Lots of legal activities are discouraged because they upset other people.

  2. Just as Caffe Nero allowed smoking when the other chains didn't, there will be pubs which allow vaping. Maybe it's better this way? You can hardly complain about vaping when there's a pub up the road which doesn't allow it, although I'm sure some people will.

  3. The Blocked Dwarf21 July 2017 at 15:40

    The problem isn't individual landlords allowing or forbidding vaping- that must remain a decision for the landlord (as should have real smoking), he will know his clientèle. If I were a vaper-and I thank heaven I'm not- I would not spend a penny in any pub that obviously didn't want my custom. Simples.

    What annoys me is that the government , having allowed their tax payer funded, fake-charity fASHist lobby groups to demonize vaping for years to the point that pretty much all big firms and pubcos now ban it as a matter of course because snowflakes and asthmatics will go into seizure at the sight of an e-cig, suddenly criticise businesses. Too late PMT.May the damage has been done. I await to see how many firms now re-allow vaping indoors. I suspect very few.

    1. I agree that nothing much is likely to happen, but we can enjoy a touch of Schadenfreude seeing them having to confront the contradictions of their own policies.

  4. If I'm going to be forced outside to vape, I might as well light up a large bowl of Bob's Chocolate Flake and bed in (or, rather, out) for the long haul.

    The creeping authoritarianism and intolerance in this country will be the death of freedom as we know it. Tempted to mention Niemöller, but I'll probably get into trouble for it again.

    Fuck it, Niemöller, Niemöller, Niemöller.

  5. Your views as per smoking, as far as I understand them, are that the proprietor of the establishment ought decide whether to acquiesce to the requirements of smokers rather than be governed through ordinance.

    This is the case for vaping. Pubs are free to choose. What is the problem if they decide to decline to accommodate vapers on the basis that none vapers are commercially more valuable and dislike great plumes of stage smoke steam when they dine?

    1. Yes, of course the principle of "my gaff, my rules" should prevail, but that doesn't mean that pub operators can't be criticised for blindly swallowing the view that vaping = smoking, and for not doing their bit to contribute to public health objectives.

      It's also a bit rich coming from you as an ex-vaper :P

    2. The Blocked Dwarf22 July 2017 at 14:15

      Not directly pub related but indicative: I go on the coach baccy runs to Belgium. Now the law, rightly or fucking wrongly I think, bans smoking on coaches and there is nothing one can expect the coach companies to do but comply with the law. But I was shocked to discover that on a bus full, by definition, of smokers all patiently waiting for the next fag break, that vaping was also VERBOTEN. As much as I dislike vaping, they are useful for such incidents of 'Departure Lounge Cold Turkey'.
      So at the next fag break, when every single passenger got off the bus to smoke along with both drivers, I inquired of the drivers as to WHY vaping was banned. They both rolled their eyes heavenward and answered that vaping had been allowed until a driver was 'caught' by a passenger sitting in his 'cab' on a stop with the window open vaping and blowing the steam out of the window. After the snowflake complained, vaping was banned on all the firm's coaches.
      It will have been no different for any Pubco, some snowflakey asthma SUFFERER will have have sunken to the bar room carpet and died from the sight of someone's e-cig.

      The man who starts producing e-cigs that look like asthma inhalers will make a fortune.

    3. You've set up a number of straw men there mudge without addressing the point that you appear to advocate choice & freedom but baulk when people choose courses of which you disapprove.

    4. Believing in free choice does not mean that you regard all choices as being of equal validity.


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