Public Vape Spaces: The Time Has Come
Public Vape Spaces: The Time Has Come
With vaping becoming more commonplace, the question arises: do we need public spaces specifically for vaping? Or do we lump vapers together with smokers? The answer isn’t that simple, as many people have debated the subject over recent months.
Current Vaping Policy in the US
While things can differ from state to state or even town to town, over the last several years policy makers have largely equated vaping with smoking by amending existing anti-smoking laws to include vapor products. This means that most indoor venues and spaces banned vaping entirely if they had already banned cigarettes. And now public outdoor areas such as parks and beaches are under the same guidelines in states such as New Jersey, Delaware, and New York.
That direction of ‘better safe than sorry’ has also spread overseas as well, with some countries going as far as banning vaping entirely.
But is lumping vaping and smoking the best policy for vapers and the public?
Misconception that Vaping=Smoking
The mistaken belief that vaping and smoking are the same is part of the reason why they're often addressed using the same set of laws. If it looks like smoke that means it must be smoke, right?
While vaping is still fairly new, it's been around long enough for some early scientific results to refute this assertion. While early indicators are that vaping is less harmful than smoking, it’s probably not harmless. That means that people who don't want to be exposed to vapor in public shouldn't have to be.
There’s also been a perception disconnect among the social stigma of vaping. Some smokers and non-smokers believe vaping is the ‘new’ cigarette trying to trojan horse its way past smoking restrictions.
However, with more research, there is a call to change those mindsets and more importantly, those ‘all together’ policies.
The Pros and Cons of Public Vape Spaces
Officials advocating for allowing vaping in public spaces are popping up across England, as evidenced by this Telegraph report detailing the ever-evolving understanding of the health effects of vapor to the user and people around them.
According to the Telegraph article, Science and Technology Committee chair member Norman Lamb MP, said: “E-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but current policy and regulations do not sufficiently reflect this and businesses, transport providers and public places should stop viewing conventional and e-cigarettes as the same. There is no public health rationale for doing so.”
In an article by BBC World News, the science and technology MPs' committee see a window to combat smoking directly and think that vaping should be in a new category, with new regulations in regards to public areas.
Currently, the only states in the U.S. that do not regulate indoor vaping are Nebraska, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Tennessee.
Colorado is one of the few states where vaping is only prohibited on school grounds, but is allowed at restaurants, pools, and various other public areas.
And while these new steps in policy exploration (and compliance) won’t allow for you to vape at the next office meeting anytime soon, it’s a stepping stone in the right direction to create room for vaping in a public setting.
Where that can happen, though, will require further study and advocating in the future months.
Potential Benefits of Vaping in Public
According to an article from the World Health Organization (WHO): “Allowing vaping in indoor public places may encourage smokers to switch to vaping, by making it relatively more attractive as vaping would be allowed where tobacco smoking is not.”
The article continues: “If vaping indoors does actually normalize vaping for smokers, then logic would suggest it might also normalize vaping for non-smokers.”
It's speculated such a development could create a ripple effect to help non-smokers recognize the difference in behavior and risk between smoking and vaping, but unlike smoking, vapers don’t seem to feel an intense need to puff away in a public setting, even if they haven't vaped in a while.
“In a survey conducted among exclusive e-cigarette users in the United States of America, only 12 percent (124 of 1,034) reported finding it difficult to refrain from vaping in places where they were not supposed to,” reported the WHO.
A few public areas are making strides to allow vaping in a smoking-prohibited area, such as Six Flags, which recently installed vape-permissible spaces where smoking isn't allowed. This could be seen as a net benefit for vapers, who won't have to expose themselves to secondhand smoke to take a vape break. However, a few people have raised concerns about a separate vaping space that’s different from smoking and non-smoking sections.
Specifically, some vapers believe the creation of vape spaces creates the perception that vaping still needs to be separated from vape-free environments, like smoking. That’s not what many vaping advocates want.
It’s not what we want. We don't want to be regulated into a corner on the other side of a line, preferring to stand among our friends, acquaintances, and family.
As further research comes to light, the argument over how to address vaping in public will continue to evolve. We just personally hope it doesn’t mean we have to stand outside in the cold forever.