With more than a million people using ecigarettes, the British Medical Association wants them banned from all public places as soon as possible. The smoking ban does not apply to these devices because there is no smoke, but still “it normalizes behavior that has become socially unacceptable” says Dr Ram Moorthy from BMA.

two piece ecigaretteAt the other end, Katherine Devlin president of the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA) at Westfield shopping centre in London is trying to stop the bans in the U.K. and educate the general public on the benefits of the ecigarette and its environmental and social attributes.

It’s really important that electronic cigarettes are allowed to be used in public as widely as possible so that as many smokers as possible are aware that they have this option. The more smokers we can get to make the switch, the bigger the public health gain we can achieve.” she says, but the shoppers have mixed opinions about these devices. For some conservative people they are exactly as cigars or cigarettes and they should be banned from public places, while others, more open minded, agree on the benefits they could have on those who want to quit.

E-cigarettes work by vaporizing liquid using atomizers. There is no smoke, no ash, no tobacco and no tar. What looks like smoking coming out of the users’ mouths is in fact vapor and there is a huge difference between smoking and vaping.

The debate around these devices has divided the medical opinion. Some see this as the best alternative for smoking and a real efficient aid to cessation while others worry about the long term effects, their regulation and their safety. Yet some of the doctors that are struggling for the banning of these products also admit they are better than actual tobacco cigarettes:

It is clear they are less harmful by several magnitudes than smoking […]But we still need to have a much greater evidence base about how safe they are.” said Dr. Moorthy, from the British Medical Association.

Many have followed the BMA advice and have banned ecigarettes. Airlines, train companies, JD Wetherspoon pubs and the University of London do not allow users to use their devices. Many say that arguments are developing because people tend to confuse vaping with smoking.

The government says that each individual company and institution can determine their own policy, and this generally determines confusion. For example ecigarettes are banned from Sainsbury’s markets but are allowed in Asda, while Katherine Devlin can’t enjoy her device in an open-air Starbuck coffee shop but can do it just outside the perimeter.

The Scottish Parliament allows ecigarette use and council officials and staff who smoke in Glasgow can use their devices in the City Chambers and in their vehicles, while those in Edinburgh cannot.

Meanwhile Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports have banned ecigs due to the fact that travellers were acustomed to smoking-free waiting rooms and often mistake vapors for smoke and fire.

Others, like Sheila Duffy chief executive of anti-smoking group ASH Scotland, said: “We want to support their potential as a quitting device while resisting the commercial pressure to recruit new nicotine addicts or make smoking once again a normal part of public life. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for venues.”

The general conclusion is that the public is quite relaxed about these products and their use in public places at a time when more and more institutions are deciding to ban them.