The usage of e-cigarette, these battery-operated products that dispense nicotine in vapor form, seems to be constantly on the rise. And, with more and more venues advertising the sale of e-smoking devices and new shops continually opening their doors to address to this niche industry, it looks like ecigs are here to stay. However, just like in the case of combustible cigarettes, hotel owners have to decide how to regulate their use on property, and particularly in common areas and guestrooms.
Due to the fact that e-cigarettes use liquid nicotine derived from natural tobacco plants, the FDA has not yet decided on how to regulate them and regards them just as it does other tobacco products. To date, it is unclear whether there pose any second-hand risks from inhaling their resulting vapors, but critics usually address the nicotine based e-liquid and the vapor odor they produce to pursue their prohibition from public venues.
It is obvious that hoteliers and other hospitality venues have struggled for years now with whether and how to regulate general tobacco products inside their perimeters. Addressing both state laws and customer preferences, most hoteliers prohibit smoking in public areas (except their bars or casinos) and allow it only inside their guestrooms. However, when it comes to e-cigarettes, the lack of precise regulations has led to some confusion with laws falling behind their popular use.
While there are still many unknowns regarding this increasingly popular product due to the lack of long term studies on human health, hoteliers are left with the decision to whether or not treat these devices as tobacco products and ban them or limit them to designated areas.
However, some answers are on the way since the Food and Drug Administration has recently proposed regulations that would treat electronic cigarettes as they do tobacco, prohibiting vending machine sales and sales to underage people as well as requiring health warnings about the contents and risks of the products.
And seeing that all indicators point out to e-cigarettes being treated the same way as tobacco, hoteliers can feel comfortable regulating their use on property to the same extent. However, this is not to say that they have to ban e-cigarette use in all spaces that smoking is banned because often municipalities leave the decision up to the owners of each venue.
One fact that hoteliers might face is to deal with a person that contends he is disabled due to a dependence on nicotine and demands the ability to use e-cigarettes. The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act only require a reasonable accommodation and do not generally require the reasonable accommodation of choice. For instance, a hospitality venue banning e-cigarette use could presumably meet its accommodation obligations to a nicotine addict by allowing use of a nicotine patch or nicotine gum.
For now and until the imminent clarifying administrative regulations come out, hotel owners can feel comfortable regulating e-cigarettes in the same way as traditional tobacco products.