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DT Debates: Should e-cigarette smokers follow traditional tobacco etiquette?

dt-debatesWe all know smoking is bad for you – but what about electronic smoking? New technology means we now have electronic cigarettes, which eliminate many of the health risks of the real thing. Still, there are vapors from the devices that likely won’t harm others, but they might be annoying.

Staff writers Andrew Couts and Amir Iliaifar debate whether or not e-cigarettes should be allowed in public or if they should fall under the same regulations as the real deal.

Image used with permission by copyright holder



andrew-coutsAs with any new technology, it takes some time for the general public to get used to its existence. Such is the case with e-cigarettes, which are quickly becoming a popular way for people to quit smoking, or to keep “smoking” without the stink and tar that goes with tobacco cigarettes. Now, I have been “vaping,” as e-cigarette users call it, for a few months now, and I believe it is a vast improvement over the tobacco version. Not only do I feel better, but I’m far less offensive to the people around me. It is for this reason, and the fact that studies so far show that vaping is far less unhealthy to both the person doing it and the people around them than tobacco smoke, that I believe we should not apply the same limitations to vaping as we do to smoking cigarettes.

Should e-cigarettes be allowed in bars, restaurants, and planes? Absolutely. Why not? There is absolutely no evidence so far that the vapor from e-cigarettes causes any of the health problems associated with tobacco cigarettes. Plus, there is essentially no smell, and the vapor cloud evaporates almost immediately. In fact, if you want to be particularly polite, you can simply hold in the vapor longer and it almost entirely dissipates. In other words, all of the reasons to send smokers outside are rendered completely moot when applied to vapers. Just because the activity looks the same doesn’t mean it is.




Amir-IliaifarAndrew, Andrew, Andrew… I’m sorry to burst your bubble but you’re wrong, and there are two main things I take issue with in regards to your argument. First, while I agree that it can take time for the general public to become comfortable with “new technology” e-cigarettes are not the same thing as a tablet or smartphone. It may have taken time for people to adjust to texting or even using the internet, but there are no passive health risks to you if I whip out my iPhone while we’re sitting at a table. On the other hand, you whipping out an e-cigarette and “vaping” in front of me could have a negative impact on my health.

Second, while you state  there is no conclusive evidence on the ill effects of smoking e-cigarettes – a sentiment not surprisingly shared by the e-cigarette industry – a recent study conducted by members of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at the Harvard School of Public Health have shown that simply isn’t true. In fact, the study suggested that smoking e-cigarettes may actually have a far quicker negative impact on smokers, restricting their airways even faster than a conventional cigarette.

But hey, how about I give you the benefit of the doubt and say that studies are indeed inconclusive. Scientists, and even the FDA, argue that there needs to be sufficient long-term studies – which I agree, there should be. At the same time, because we don’t know how severe the effects may be, shouldn’t we just play it safe and exercise some common courtesy by adhering to the same etiquette applied to conventional smokers? I think so.




Come on, Amir, no need to be condescending. I completely understand that I’m on the unpopular side of the wall here. These days, people would prefer to cordon themselves off from anything that they find off-putting, or that might affect their health negatively. That would be fine with me, except the things people choose to protect themselves from are based solely on their opinion, and whether or not they enjoy those things or activities themselves.

If we were to really “play it safe,” as you suggest, then we should stop people from doing, well, almost everything. We should stop people from driving cars, which is dangerous for all types of reasons, from accidents to the carcinogens in exhaust fumes. We should prevent people from drinking alcohol, or eating McDonald’s, or playing video games — there’s evidence that those activities take a toll on individuals and society, too. Maybe we should ban Facebook — a myriad of studies show surfing the social network can be bad for our health, in all types of ways. According to the National Athletic Association, even going to the gym can be detrimental to the health of anyone in attendance, as there is at a far greater risk of contracting a cornucopia of diseases when visiting one of those cesspools. In fact, the same could be said of any public place with a lot of people. Perhaps we should all just stay a minimum of 500 feet away from each other — you know, just to be safe.

My point is, almost anything is unsafe for someone, in someway, somehow. The same goes for e-cigarettes. The only difference between e-cigarettes and driving or drinking or going to the gym is that people who don’t smoke or vape are just itching to demonize the activity, simply because they find it distasteful. And chances are, they will get their way.




Me? Condescending? Never! In all seriousness, I see what you are trying to do, but your sensationalist argument that we should just disregard all rules, regulations, and day-to-day interactions because someone, somewhere, somehow deems them to be offensive, harmful, or dangerous is ludicrous.

Playing it safe isn’t the equivalent of becoming a social hermit crab or germaphobe, it means showing common courtesy to those around you. We drive our cars because the vast majority of us need to get to work, we go to the gym (well, not me, but I’m going to go starting Monday…) because the overwhelming amount of research provides clear scientific data that it is good for our physical and mental health. Are gyms gross? Yeah they are, but people can’t help it when they sweat. If I’m wasting my time all day stalking you on Facebook – which you can’t prove by the way – I’m hurting myself, not you. And while I totally believe fast food is a bane on our society, if I choose to go out on a McDate with someone and eat a Big Mac I’m harming myself – not them.

The same cannot be said of e-cigarettes. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of smoking in any form be it hookah, regular cigarettes, and now e-cigarettes. I just don’t like it. Do I think people should be free to do it? Sure. But just like it is your right to smoke, it is my right to not have to be around that and suffer the negative side effects. And since you’re smoking or vaping is probably harming my lungs too — then yeah, you shouldn’t do it in areas where it’s not designated.




My argument is not that we should rid ourselves of all rules and regulations. It’s that people should be tolerant of e-cigarettes, just as they are tolerant of all type of other activities that can maybe, just maybe, cause harm to themselves or others.

Now, I understand that probably nobody is going to agree with me about that. I understand that I have almost certainly lost this argument from the start. But the fact remains: e-cigarettes are nothing more than tiny smoke machines. In fact, they use exactly the same chemicals as big smoke machines use. So unless you’re willing to say that we should outlaw smoke machines, I am going to consider myself the winner of this debate. And you can take your uppity attitude and go have a wholesome good time at a yoga retreat, or wherever you health freaks like to go. I, on the other hand, am going to sit here and enjoy a frosty adult beverage, and puff away on my e-cigarette until someone tells me it’s illegal. Later, loser.




Ah Andrew, thank you for waving the white flag of defeat with such grace and civility. I’d like to sit here and say you did a good job of arguing your point, but then I’d be a liar. But you need not worry, I’ll certainly enjoy drinking your tears tonight – that is, after I head over to the gym, sweat profusely all over the equipment, grab a Value Meal on the way home, spend a few hours on Facebook, and then finish the night off with a few testosterone-filled sessions of Call of Duty.

All joking aside, I really think this is one of those tricky areas and a compelling argument can be made for both sides given how e-cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon. It’s not that I’m trying to be a jerk, or want to spoil your e-cigarette fun, but I think it’s become all too acceptable for people to think of themselves before others. We have this self-centered attitude that we should be able to do whatever the hell we want, wherever the hell we want, but that simply isn’t the case. If I’m wrong, go drink and drive and see what happens when the cops pull you over.

We’re all so “wired in” all the time (hell, I checked my Twitter feed like five times already since I started writing this), that there seems to be a great degree of detachment to everyday physical interaction and common courtesy among people. It sounds kinda corny, but a little common courtesy goes a long way and I think e-cigarettes etiquette is a perfect example of people exhibiting that lack of courtesy.

At the end of the day, we don’t know the health effects – although medical research indicates there are negative ones — so again, let’s just show some respect to those around us that don’t want to breathe in harmful chemicals or vapor. But don’t worry Andrew, I’ll gladly go outside and hang out with you while you smoke, but only because I choose to. 

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