As electronic cigarettes become a familiar sight many business owners, bar staff and waiters are finding themselves faced with a sticky question – should they allow these new devices or not? It’s understandable that they’re worried about it, and natural that they’ll look for advice on what to do. Unfortunately not all the advice they’re getting is very good.
The reason smoking is banned in enclosed public spaces is that smoke – whether it’s exhaled or “sidestream” smoke that comes off cigarettes between puffs – contains several hundred toxic or carcinogenic chemicals and it’s known to pose a health risk. It now seems that some of the risks of secondhand smoke, such as lung cancer, are a lot lower than many people thought. There are still dangers though, so it’s reasonable to minimise exposure. But does the same apply to e-cigarettes?
It’s common to hear anti-nicotine activists insisting that “We don’t know what’s in e-cigs.” It’s more accurate to say that they might not know what’s in them, but the users – and more importantly the scientists – certainly do. In fact there have been over 900 scientific studies into the contents and effects of exhaled e-cigarette vapour, and the results are overwhelmingly reassuring. Yes, there are some substances in the vapour that can be toxic at high levels, but there’s nowhere near enough of them to actually do any harm. Medical experts know that “the dose makes the poison,” and no matter how toxic something might be there’s a level below which it’s safe. Everything in vapour is far below that level – usually less than 1% of it.
Obviously it’s up to property owners if they want to allow vaping; it’s their property, after all. But whatever they decide that decision shouldn’t be based on misleading evidence. It would be a shame if people who’ve managed to switch from tobacco are forced back out into the smoking area to inhale secondhand smoke – especially if it’s done with the excuse of protecting health.