BBC investigates the etiquette of the electronic cigarette
The recent M6 toll incident suddenly put electronic cigarettes on to the front page of every UK newspaper – highlighting a degree of ignorance in the British public. A report in the American Journal of Public Health revealed about 40% of individuals reported they had heard of e-cigarettes; it would be interesting to find out the UK figure. what a novelty e-cigarettes are to many people and how easily confusion can develop.
The incident was reason enough the BBC to report on the etiquette on using the e cig in public. “Even before the smoking ban, a restaurant-goer lighting up would annoy fellow diners. Since the ban, such behaviour would cause consternation among customers and lead the owner to fear legal action. Smoking an e-cigarette, however, is legal in public places. Although it contains nicotine, there is no burning and only odourless steam is produced” the report stated, and it interviewed some well known figures to take the pulse of the public about this hot topic.
Invoking celebrity users like Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Moss it asked “is it socially acceptable to take a battery assisted puff on a train or in a public library? And what about in the office or at a dinner party?”
Beating the ban with an electronic cigarette
Its first witness was cultural commentator Peter York who felt there was an amusing defiance about electronic cigarette smokers: "It's quite a good joke - although obviously not on motorway buses." But York sensed that trying to puff on one at a smart restaurant might alarm fellow diners and create a scene. "If you're going to do it you should arm yourself with the legal rubric so that you can say, for example, 'under section 16 of the bill' - or whatever it is - 'I'm completely legal'."
Simon Clark, director of smoking lobby group Forest, stated that e-cigarettes were perfectly appropriate for restaurants. "I cannot see why you shouldn't. They're giving off a bit of water vapour but it's nothing to concern anyone."
But body language expert Judi James advised caution. “Even someone putting an unlit cigarette in their mouth can upset people nowadays”, she said. “Anyone wanting to smoke an e-cigarette at work should inform colleagues first what they're doing”
Others were more positive "It's a bit of fun, it's a novelty," concluded Peter York. "If it weans people off real cigarettes, then that's a good thing."
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