A Public Vaping Update for 2018
As we all know, smoking is banned in England, and many other places when it comes to public spaces. This started in 2007 with the implementation of the government Go Smoke Free ban. This saw smoking banned at work, on public transport, in shopping centres, cafes, public buildings and more. A later addition has seen smoking in cars where minors are present banned too. Vaping is not mentioned under the GSF legislation and so many are asking, where can vapers vape in public in 2018?
Some Public Vaping Context
One of the reasons this question exists is because smoking in public is so very frowned upon. Public Health England, the government department responsible for all matters relating to public health, including harm reduction, put together the smoking ban regulations. This was largely due to overwhelming scientific evidence that passive smoking could be just as harmful to those breathing in second-hand smoke as it could be to smokers themselves. The public smoke ban looked to eliminate these health risks for children and non-smokers who were struggling to avoid cigarette smoke when out and about.
To be clear, smoking and vaping are not the same. In fact, Public Health England (PHE) released an important review this year announcing findings that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking and less than 1% likely to cause cancer. The other 5% is the unknown, as PHE can’t claim 100% until vaping and health studies have run for a longer time period than they have already. By comparison, cigarettes and cigarette smoke are classified as toxic and potentially cancer-causing by WHO (World Health Organisation).
There is no reason and no evidence to suggest that passive vaping is anything like passive smoking from a health and wellbeing point of view. Confusion regarding the differences between vaping and smoking is why the question regarding passive vaping exists.
At the time of writing, vaping is not legally banned in any public spaces. That said, individual businesses
and establishments have the right to impose their own rules about vaping inside or on the ground. Vaping is discouraged on public transport, in public areas such as at concerts, around schools (for obvious reasons), at work and so on.
These bans are largely in place to protect non-vapers from a waft of fruity or sweet vapour invading their personal space, and the vaping community don’t have a problem with that. Vaping is discouraged around non-vapers not for any reasons pertaining to risk to health or anything like that, purely because it is the polite and considerate thing to do. So, while there is little to no legislation governing vaping in public places in 2018, the general consensus is to check with individual establishments and if in doubt, don’t do it.
As part of the review PHE released earlier this year, they made a number of vaping related recommendations for the government to consider. This included a request for e cigarettes to be recognised as a valid medical device (for helping people to quit smoking) in order to allow them to be prescribed via GP to smokers looking to switch over from harmful smoking to vaping. Other recommendations included allowing vaping at work (normalising vaping and making it more accessible than smoking) and asking for hospitals to be able to sell e cigarettes to patients to use instead of cigarettes. It certainly seems that with these changes in mind, a 2019/2020 update on public vaping may well look quite different.
While little has changed regarding vaping in public, i.e. it still isn’t included under Go Smoke Free regulations and establishments still tend to exercise their right to request no vaping indoors, change is in the air. With vaping becoming more accessible and numerous health charities, experts, scientists and PHE of course working hard to educate the public on vaping and eliminate mistruths, we expect to see public vaping much more widely accepted socially in the next few years.