It’s strange to think that it has only been a few years since the now commonplace electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) first appeared.
With evidence suggesting the e-cigarette is a less harmful alternative, it quickly took off and is now so popular more than 3m people use them regularly and they come in more than 200 flavours. From cherry cola and popcorn, to the more traditional tobacco, the vaping category, which includes e-cigarettes, vapes and vaporizers, is now worth almost £170m a year.
However, with the rise of e-cigarettes has come confusion about where they can be used and sold, as well as the impact they have on health, and publicans need to know the full facts.
Technically, it is not illegal to vape inside a pub. E-cigarettes are not included under the Health Act 2006 that justified the smoking ban, so there is no law that says people can’t vape inside pubs.
However, it is up to the pubco or publican to decide where they stand on indoor vaping.
And, along with public transport and restaurant chains, many large pubcos have banned vaping inside for a variety of reasons.
Fair for smokers and vapers
Graeme Cushion, partner at legal specialists Poppleston Allen and an experienced vaper, says that although there is no law stating people have to vape outside, pubs can introduce this policy if they wish. But he reiterates the point that the customer would not be doing anything illegal if they were to vape inside.
JD Wetherspoon is one of the pubcos that has banned vaping inside its pubs, stating that at the beginning of the vaping craze its staff spent a lot of time checking whether people were smoking or vaping.
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon says that the pubco decided to prevent any issues by banning vaping inside, to which there has been “little comeback” over the years.
“This is fair for both smokers and vapers,” he says.
Fuller’s is another large pubco that has banned vaping, and says it was “not a decision it took lightly”.
“We feel that, for non-smoking customers, seeing a customer using an e-cigarette is very disconcerting. Indeed, it is often hard to discern whether the cigarette being puffed on is real or electronic, which causes added anxiety for our guests,” a Fuller’s spokesman explains.
Star Pubs & Bars, however, has decided not to introduce a policy on vaping because its pubs are leased. The pubco leaves the decision to the individual operator’s discretion.
Poll of MA readers
A poll of 250 readers of The Morning Advertiser (MA), conducted by vape manufacturers and suppliers Blu UK, found that 49% allowed vaping inside, while 36% allowed it outside only.
The main reasons for not allowing vaping inside include concerns over the potential health implications of passive vaping and the view that vaping in an enclosed space can be antisocial, the poll revealed.
However, Scott Westlake, co-owner of the Myrtle Tavern, Leeds, West Yorkshire, says when he consulted his customers about banning vaping inside he got a negative response from smokers and non-smokers alike, so decided against it.
“I think people are quite educated and realise that people who are vaping are trying to stop smoking,” he tells MA. “It is not doing any damage to any people sitting beside them.
“However, some of those vape machines now create vapour that resembles something from Stars in Your Eyes,” he says referring to the plume of vapour produced. “If it’s like that we ask people to take it outside.” But he says the small pen-sized devices are fine inside.
Use of pub signage
If pubs wish to ban vaping, Cushion advises putting signs up in the premises, similar to posters for the age verification policy in relation to the sale of alcohol such as Challenge 21
and Challenge 25.
“The problem with Challenge 21 and Challenge 25 was that customers got annoyed when asked for ID. They might be that age and older, and therefore never carry ID on them,” he explains. “But, if the signage is up, they know they are going to be asked for it.”
He says: “The same principle applies [to vaping], it’s all about communication and managing people’s expectations.”
Jennifer Roberts, vice-president of customer marketing at Blu UK, says that pubs that do allow vaping inside should ensure customers are aware.
“As with any pub activity, promote it and make the venue a destination for vapers,” she says.
For those who are undecided about whether to allow vaping inside their pubs, it’s worth revisiting information on the health risks.
No evidence of harm
The NHS says there is no evidence that exposure to e-cigarette vapour is harmful to bystanders. Evidence indicates that any risk of harm is extremely low, especially when compared with tobacco smoke.
E-cigarettes are designed for users to inhale nicotine minus the harmful effects of smoking. Unlike cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide.
The NHS says vapour has been found to contain some toxicants also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.
For pubs that sell, or wish to sell e-cig products, new laws governing this came into force on 20 May 2017.
All e-cigarettes and refills bought to sell to the public need to have been on the list of products approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, meaning that all non-approved products will need to be disposed of.
Publicans are also obliged to check that the products provided by the supplier comply with the Tobacco Products Directive. It has also been illegal for retailers to sell e-cigs or e-liquids to someone under 18 since 1 October 2015.
Roberts says operators should educate their staff on the vaping category to ensure they are knowledgeable about the differences between smoking traditional cigarettes and vaping.
“This will ensure staff can handle challenges from customers on its vaping policy with ease, while reassuring customers that the decision to allow vaping has been an informed one,” she says.